Local congressional offices targets of immigration reform rallies

  • Article by: MARK BRUNSWICK , Star Tribune
  • Updated: August 15, 2013 - 10:37 PM

Rallies at offices of Reps. Kline and Paulsen were part of a national effort to target “persuadable” conservatives as recess nears an end.

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Gladys Gutierrez, center, read a “birthday card” to Chaz Johnson of U.S. Rep. John Kline’s office on the anniversary of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.

Photo: RENÉE JONES SCHNEIDER • reneejones@startribune.com,

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At times the reception might have seemed more frosty than the cake, but local advocates for immigration reform targeted two Minnesota Republican suburban congressional offices Thursday, offering half a birthday cake to each for what they said was a job half done.

Two busloads of activists, clergy and children stopped at the Burnsville offices of Second District Republican John Kline and the Eden Prairie office of Third District Republican Erik Paulsen, part of a national coordinated effort to put pressure on GOP House representatives who have been identified as possibly “persuadable” on immigration reform.

Across the country, diverse factions have taken advantage of the summer congressional recess to renew efforts at home to push their agendas for reform. Earlier this year, the Senate passed its version, but leaders in the GOP-led House have said they will not vote for a bill like the Senate’s that includes a path to citizenship for people living illegally in the United States.

Immigration reform is expected to be one of the top subjects on the docket when Congress returns from its August recess. There will be roundtables, rallies and voter registration drives, as well as expensive radio and television ads.

In Bakersfield, Calif., on Thursday, more than 1,000 immigrant rights activists marched outside the district office of U.S. Rep. Kevin McCarthy. The protesters targeted McCarthy, the third-most powerful Republican in the House, because they say he has the ability to persuade House Speaker John Boehner to pass legislation that would allow immigrants to apply for citizenship.

In Georgia, activists planned to deliver Mexican, Korean and other international food to a congressman’s office to highlight the many immigrant communities that are part of his district.

The birthday cake at the local congressional offices was a symbol.

Exactly a year ago, President Obama signed an executive order allowing undocumented immigrants brought into the country as minors to receive a temporary reprieve from deportation, called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.

Receiving deferred action removes the chance of being deported for two years. Those who have been approved also receive work permits, meaning that for the first time, they can legally get a job. They are also eligible for driver’s licenses and in-state college tuition in many states.

Wearing a graduation-style cap, 19-year-old David Ramirez-Luna, who was brought the United States from Acapulco, Mexico, when he was 3, said the act has allowed him to get a job and be able to drive to work. But he fears there are no guarantees.

“Growing up, I always felt left out, I felt out of place, I felt alone,” said Ramirez-Luna, who wants to become an immigration lawyer someday. “Now I have part of it, but I want all of it.”

Many of the events across the country were organized by Chicago-based Gamaliel, a faith-based network. The local effort was coordinated by Asamblea de Derechos Civiles. In all, 18 congressional offices in 11 cities were visited, with activists singing “Happy Birthday” to mark the anniversary of the federal policy.

In Wisconsin, the network reported a group of pastors, immigrants and a Catholic nun tried to give a half cake and balloons to former vice presidential hopeful Rep. Paul Ryan. They met a locked office and were unable to talk with any staff members.

Neither Kline nor Paulsen was available when the groups showed up. Representatives for both accepted the cakes and birthday cards but did not address the crowd.

At Paulsen’s Eden Prairie office, the group was not allowed inside. At Kline’s Burnsville office, about 30 advocates crowded into his office until they were warned that office staffers were concerned about fire code violations. Spokesmen for Kline and Paulsen did not respond to requests for comment on the rallies.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) also made note of the anniversary, taking the opportunity to slam Kline and Paulsen for votes they took on an amendment to a Homeland Security appropriations bill that would have prohibited Immigration and Customs Enforcement from implementing Obama’s 2012 executive order protecting the young people from deportation.

Earlier this summer, Kline and Paulsen may have been the targets of a first in Minnesota politics: Spanish-language radio ads from the DCCC targeting them for their vote.

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  • At Rep. John Kline’s Burnsville office, David Ramirez-Luna read his testimony on coming to the United States as an undocumented 3-year-old. office.

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