Key Republican Faces Immigration Reform Protest During Summer Break

With more Latino voters, could McCarthy be the key to comprehensive immigration reform?

Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., talks with reporters before speaking at the Sacramento Press Club on March 1, 2013, in Sacramento, Calif.
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House Majority Whip Rep. Kevin McCarthy should brace himself for some angry visitors during his summer break.

Thousands of immigrants, church leaders, students and union officials will pour into McCarthy's Bakersfield, Calif., district headquarters next week to pressure the Republican to support a path to citizenship for the country's 11 million immigrants who entered the country illegally.

Organizers say the protesters will drive more than 100 miles from Los Angeles to Bakersfield in a "1,100-car caravan" to urge McCarthy to bring an immigration reform bill to the floor of the House. Local immigration groups are also expect to come out for the rally. The pro-reform groups think they have fertile ground to cultivate in a GOP district that's more than one -third Hispanic.

[READ: White House: Immigration Reform Helps the Economy]

"We are getting cranky because there is no comprehensive bill in the House side," says Arnulfo De La Cruz, the state director for immigrant outreach group Mi Familia Vota. "We want a path to citizenship and we will keep raising our voices and expanding our coalition and reminding McCarthy and other legislators that we are the fastest growing part of the new electorate.

McCarthy has tiptoed around the issue by supporting less controversial pieces of immigration reform like the DREAM Act, which would allow individuals who entered the country illegally as children the chance to stay.

But he has stopped short of backing a plan to address immigrants currently in the United States without legal documentation.

"What you then have to address is the 11 million that are here considered illegal," he said in Newport, Calif., earlier this week. "I personally believe it's different for someone who's been here 30 years than if they've been here three months."

McCarthy is in a unique position as a member of the House leadership team because he may be forced to help drum up votes for a bill that is unpopular in his district.

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Unlike House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, or Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., who have less than 5 percent Latino voters back home, McCarthy has a district made up of 35 percent Latino voters.

Already, Boehner has dismissed bringing up the Senate's bipartisan immigration bill and promised he won't bring any bill to the floor that cannot attract a majority of the Republican caucus.

The reality that so few Republicans hold districts with Hispanic populations has led many to believe immigration reform in the GOP-led House is doomed. But GOP pollster Whit Ayres says among national voters there is still a lot of public support to reform the country's immigration system.

"The majority of Republicans recognize that we will not deport 11 million illegal immigrants. That is a population roughly the size of Ohio," Ayres says. "They don't want to give them amnesty, but about two-thirds of Republicans support a path to citizenship under some conditions."

 

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