The prognosis for passage of a comprehensive immigration reform bill was looking grimmer and grimmer this year as GOP leaders in the House said its members were simply too “distrustful” of President Barack Obama to approve of such a sweeping measure.
The final nail in the reform coffin seemed to be hammered in by no less than the House speaker himself, Rep. John Boehner of Ohio.
But immigration advocates continue pushing for reform – in recent weeks doing everything to keep the pressure, from holding hunger strikes in front of immigration detention facilities to riding a bicycle on Sunday 1,000 miles from Florida to Washington D.C., to targeting political candidates running for office in November and warning them that their stance on the emotionally-charged issue will be remembered by Latinos when they cast their votes.
The latest salvo comes from an advocacy group affiliated with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg that launched a nationwide ad on Monday that implores House Republicans to act this election year on legislation overhauling the nation's immigration system.
"Why are House Republicans cooling, retreating and even privately saying they'd rather do nothing this year?" the 60-second spot asks, then adds, "Nothing won't do. Call House Republicans today. Tell them we've waited long enough, pass immigration reform."
The commercial comes as rank-and-file House Republicans are reluctant to tackle the divisive issue in the months leading up to the midterm congressional elections, wary that a high-profile fight will undercut their upbeat prospects for increasing their majority in the House and seizing control of the Senate.
House GOP leaders unveiled a set of principles on immigration in January, but the optimism among advocates was dashed when Boehner blamed GOP distrust of President Barack Obama for the House's inability to move forward on legislation.
The new commercial is slated to run in all 50 states at a cost of $500,000. Council for American Job Growth, an affiliate of the group FWD.us, is sponsoring the ad. Zuckerberg launched the advocacy group FWD.us with the support of Silicon Valley titans such as Bill Gates and Sean Parker and the organization has been one of the most active on the immigration issue.
"The future of this country, our country, is tied to immigration reform," says the spot, which warns of stagnant job growth and loss of tax revenue if Congress fails to act.
The role of the likes of Zuckerberg, who has identified himself in the past as Republican-leaning, and other business heavy hitters insinuates an important dimension in to the immigration reform debate, observers say.
“If reform is going to have any chance, it will require center right GOP-aligned groups – like tech interests, agriculture interests, the business community – to step up and put real pressure on Republicans to act,” said an editorial in The Washington Post.
Earlier this year, the advocacy group “Fast for Families Across America” launched a campaign that entails visits to more than 100 congressional districts.
Last week, the group embarked on a two-bus nationwide tour. It involves stopping at more than 75 districts with daily events calling for congressional action on immigration reform. The two buses are expected to meet in Washington D.C. in April.
“Fast for Families” gained national attention in November when its leaders held a hunger strike on the National Mall for 22 days, during which they camped out in white tents.
An unusual coalition of business groups, labor and religious organizations, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the nation's Catholic bishops, has pressed for immigration legislation with little signs of progress in the House.
The Senate passed a comprehensive bill last June that would provide a pathway to citizenship for the estimated 11 million immigrants living in the country illegally, tighten border security and add new visa and workplace enforcement programs.
The legislation has stalled in the House where Republicans have rejected a comprehensive approach in favor of piecemeal legislation. The House, however, hasn't voted on any of the individual bills passed by the Judiciary Committee last year.
Those who want a path to legal status for undocumented immigrants stress, however, that Republican conservatives are not the only one to blame for the continuing flawed system.
They increasingly have targeted Obama, too, noting that a record number of deportations have occurred since he’s been president. They call him “Deporter-in-Chief.”
"We know the President has the ability to expand relief and its unfathomable why he continues to deport the very people he says he wants to see included in reform,” said Pablo Alvarado, executive director of the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, or NDLON, in a statement to Fox News Latino.
“It has been the bold organizing, risk, and sacrifices of immigrants that put immigration on the national agenda," Alvarado said. "There is a galvanized consensus that the President needs to act. It's concrete and clear and could happen immediately. What he did for immigrant youth with deferred action he can do for the broader undocumented community."
The Associated Press contributed to this story.
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