Thousands of immigration reformers clogged the streets of 6th St. in downtown Minneapolis while marching from the Basilica of St. Mary to to the Hennepin County Government Center Plaza Saturday, Oct. 5, 2013, in Minneapolis, MN.
Washington – Members of Congress have come under several waves of lobbying from immigration-reform supporters on both the right and the left this year.
Just last week, a legion of business, religious and law enforcement leaders — traditional pillars of the Republican base — converged on Capitol Hill to press lawmakers for action.
Reform advocates feel a sense of urgency, mindful that bipartisan cooperation could be hard to find if the work slides into 2014, a midterm election year.
House Speaker John Boehner and his fellow Republican leaders have not publicly declared immigration reform dead in 2013, which means there is still a chance the House could act this month or in early December.
But with only 19 scheduled legislative days left in 2013, supporters of comprehensive reform are keeping their optimism in check.
There’s also the issue of determining how the GOP would cast votes on the issue.
A number of conservative Republicans, including Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota, have made it clear they will not vote for what they consider to be “amnesty” for undocumented immigrants.
With Bachmann firmly in the “no” column, reform supporters are hopeful that House members like John Kline and Erik Paulsen will heed their pleas, pitches and protests.
The Minnesota Republicans are among 23 members of their party who Democrats say could be persuaded to support “true immigration reform.”
The Democratic-led Senate passed a comprehensive immigration bill this summer that included a 13-year pathway to citizenship for immigrants who pass background checks.
House Republicans have rejected that sweeping legislation in favor of a piecemeal approach.
Since the start of the year, the House Judiciary Committee has approved five bills, including legislation to strengthen border security and require employers to use a federal database to ensure they are hiring people who are legally eligible to work in the United States.
None of the bills have come up for a full House vote.
Both Kline and Paulsen have indicated support for change in the nation’s immigration system but have not come out in favor of full-blown reform.
Plenty of people are seeking to persuade them.
From the left, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) plans to run television ads designed to pressure about 30 House Republicans who could be vulnerable in next year’s elections because of the high number of immigrants in their districts.
As of now, Kline and Paulsen aren’t among those targeted, but the SEIU is wading into Kline’s Second Congressional District to test voter sentiment.
A Public Policy Polling poll commissioned by the union and released Tuesday indicated that residents of the district want action on the issue.
The Democratic-leaning firm’s survey of 781 likely voters found that three-fourths of Republicans and independents, and more than 80 percent of Democrats, want Congress to pass reform with a pathway to citizenship.
While advocates consider the time ripe for reform, however, the clock is ticking.
The soonest the House could tackle the any legislation is after Veterans Day.
Members are back in their home districts on recess this week, where they’ll likely hear from more people pushing for a path forward on immigration.