Immigration activists launch effort on legislation


WASHINGTON — Promising a massive pro-immigration effort unlike any ever seen, a coalition of national Latino civil rights and labor organizations unveiled a national campaign Wednesday to push President Barack Obama and Congress to pass immigration legislation next year.

Latinos helped deliver Obama’s re-election with near-historic turnout at the polls. Janet Murguia, the president of the National Council of La Raza, said Latinos had demonstrated their political power and now expected lawmakers to address the community’s issues.

“We’ve only scratched the surface,” she said at a news conference in downtown Washington. “We intend to continue to build that power. To grow that power. And now we intend to use it to advance comprehensive immigration reform.”

The coalition includes the Service Employees International Union, the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement, the League of United Latin American Citizens, the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials, Mi Familia Vota, Voto Latino and the Hispanic Federation.

Their demands for immigration legislation include a comprehensive package and what they call a “path to citizenship.”

While conservative leaders have said the Republican Party needs to be more welcoming to the nation’s fastest-growing voting bloc, granting a path to citizenship — which some liken to amnesty — will be difficult for many to embrace.

Republican supporters of immigration legislation, such as Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, have indicated a preference for a package of laws that address border security, guest-worker programs and undocumented students as individual issues, rather than pushing one massive piece of legislation that would be more difficult to pass.

But Ben Monterroso, the national executive director of Mi Familia Vota, said both parties no longer could use the Latino community as a political football. And Murguia warned Obama that failure to pass comprehensive immigration legislation would leave him with a legacy as the president who deported more people than any other.

Coalition participants plan to rank members of Congress based on their support of immigration legislation. Eliseo Medina, the secretary-treasurer of the Service Employees International Union, warned that those who “work against us or simply sit by idly” will pay a price in 2014.

“We welcome everyone into this battle,” Medina said. “Republicans and Democrats. By God, maybe they can get a ‘Kumbaya’ moment.”