Republicans in the House of Representatives might be ready for a break during August recess, but lawmakers should brace themselves for some raucous town hall meetings as business leaders, immigration advocates and the religious community plan to descend on GOP congressional districts across the country to push for comprehensive immigration reform.
No matter where they go, advocates of immigration reform say GOP members won't be able to find much relief as donors, voters and advocates lay on the heat.
Advocates are confident that after a monthlong push, those in conservative districts may come away believing immigration reform is not only important to Americans nationwide, but an important issue for their constituents at home.
The Alliance for Citizenship, a coalition of more than 50 human rights and union partners pushing for immigration reform, announced Wednesday they will travel through 52 congressional districts such as House Majority Whip Rep. Kevin McCarthy's in California to Rep. Steve King's in Iowa. They plan to attend at least 360 events throughout the August recess. And when they are not on the ground engaging with elected officials, they will be canvassing, knocking on doors and registering voters.
"There is one thing we must make absolutely clear and that is that the forces and the voices pressing for immigration reform are vast and growing," says Clarissa Martinez-De-Castro, director of civic engagement for the National Council of La Raza, the country's largest Latino civil rights organization.
Business and conservative groups such as Republicans for Immigration Reform will also step in for an assist and cover additional ground. Even the party's election year donors have lent their weight as reinforcement.
Tuesday, a group of 100 Republican campaign donors including Karl Rove and David Horowitz sent a letter to the Republican caucus warning that voting against immigration reform could have long-lasting impacts on the national party's success in future presidential elections and perhaps even in lawmakers' own congressional election coffers.
"Standing in the way of reform ensures that we perpetuate a broken system that stifles our economy, leaves millions of people living in America unaccounted for, maintains a porous border and risks a long-lasting perception that Republicans would rather see nothing done than pass needed reform," the letter said. "That is not the path for the Republican Party."
The massive on-the-ground blitz comes as advocates push to keep the pressure on the House, which has yet to pass a single immigration bill this year. More than a month after the Senate passed its bipartisan and comprehensive immigration bill, Republicans in the House have moved slowly to adopt legislation. So far the House has passed five piecemeal bills out of committee, most of which focused on beefing up border security or strengthening internal immigration enforcement.
While some have begun to discuss a possible DREAM Act, to give individuals who came to the country illegally as children a path to citizenship, a path to citizenship for all of the 11 million immigrants who entered the country illegally is starting to appear out of reach.
Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill., who is part of a bipartisan group in the House crafting a comprehensive immigration bill, says he is optimistic the grass roots push for reform could encourage House Speaker John Boehner to bring legislation to the floor this fall. Boehner has said he will not bring any bill to the floor that does not have a majority of his caucus behind it.
"It seems to me the only place where people are not ready to set aside partisanship is in the House of Representatives," Gutierrez says. "There are dozens of Republicans ready to join with Democrats for comprehensive immigration reform, all we need is a vote."
But some warn the grass roots push for immigration reform could actually hurt the chances a bill winds up on the president's desk by the end of the year. While business and liberal groups may be working hand in hand, anti-immigration groups are also mobilizing their members to attend town halls and send letters to their lawmakers.
"I think it will backfire. I don't know where this idea comes that we have to have millions of new foreign workers to do the work of America when we have consistent rates of high unemployment," says Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., who has been one of the most outspoken senators against immigration reform.