Who's Mobilizing Around Immigration Reform This Summer

An immigration march on Wednesday could draw thousands.

ByTed Hesson
August 13, 2013, 11:51 AM
PHOTO: rally
UNITED STATES - AUGUST 1: Immigration reform supporters protest in front of the Cannon House Office Building on Thursday, August 1, 2013.
Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call/Getty Images

Aug. 13, 2013— -- It's August recess for Congress. That means elected officials are back in their home districts answering to the people who got them elected, or promoting their agenda around the country.

While immigration reform has been a big deal in the media and in Beltway circles this year, people aren't mobilizing in the same way that they did over the healthcare bill in 2009.

In particular, the pushback against immigration reform -- "amnesty," as opponents call it -- has been quiet compared with the torch-and-pitchfork actions against Obamacare four years ago.

Take this "Stop Amnesty" event featuring Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), for example.

The congressman has been zealously preaching against immigration reform, and enjoyed a bit of media attention last month after a weird comment about the calf-size of immigrants crossing the border.

Since King is basically the lead crusader against illegal immigration, you'd expect him to draw a crowd.

But at a recent rally in Richmond, Virginia, only 50 to 60 people turned out, according to Politico reporter Seung Min Kim. A reporter for the conservative outlet Breitbart News Network reported that there were "maybe 30 people."

In photos, the event looks comically under-attended.

The pro-reform crowd has been better organized. They've put together dozens of events in cities across the country.

A union march for immigration reform set to take place on Wednesday in Bakersfield, California, for example, is expected to draw thousands.

"There is no higher priority for labor," Maria Elena Durazo, the head of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, said at a news conference last week.

There's a personal connection for many union members. Last year, a thousand janitors in the Service Employees International Union lost their jobs after immigration raids in San Diego, a political director for the union told the Los Angeles Times.

And labor unions aren't alone. Immigration reform also has the support of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the country's largest business association. Tech companies are pushing hard for reform, along with industries like agriculture, hospitality and education.

There isn't the same range of interest groups opposing immigration reform.

A group called NumbersUSA is leading the grassroots opposition to the legislation. The non-profit organization, which seeks to dramatically reduce legal and illegal immigration, has two million members that it hopes to mobilize this August.

But it may be harder to move people who aren't part of a bigger interest group, like labor unions.

Here's why: more than half of American say they aren't following the immigration debate closely, according to a Pew Research Center poll in July.

And an April Gallup poll found that immigration was not a top priority for most Americans. The economy and jobs were the most important issues for 42 percent of those polled. Meanwhile, only 4 percent considered immigration the top problem facing the country.

The summer isn't over yet, but none of these numbers give you the impression the crowds will suddenly start storming congressional offices to show they're against immigration reform.

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