Conservative business leaders, evangelicals and tech giants will descend on Washington Tuesday to make yet another plea with the House of Representatives — pass immigration reform.
"This is a last ditch effort to get something done," says Brad Bailey, a restaurant owner in Texas and founder of Texas Immigration Solution, who is coming to Washington for the event. "We are further along [in immigration reform] than we have ever been in the past."
In the wake of a bitter debt ceiling and budget fight, many staffers on Capitol Hill privately acknowledge there is little incentive for the House to work with the Senate on immigration reform. The window of opportunity is slipping away and activists are worried.
Ali Noorani, an event organizer and the executive director of the National Immigration Forum, says that is why 600 people are expected to lobby Capitol Hill Tuesday. Representatives from Silicon Valley, law enforcement agents, chamber of commerce members and faith leaders will meet with 150 congressmen, many of whom are Republicans, in hopes of convincing members to bring legislation to the floor.
"We started to plan for this event about four weeks ago because we always anticipated that once the fiscal questions were addressed there would be a legislative window for immigration reform. Which is what we have now – a great opportunity to pass immigration reform in 2013," Noorani says. The event highlights what could become a major public schism within the Republican party. On the one hand, Republicans tend to be closely aligned with the business community, working alongside them in the past to push for lower corporate tax rates and fewer government regulations. But while business leaders need Congress to pass immigration reform in order to ensure they have greater access to the high and low skilled workers they need in their industries, many Republican lawmakers have an interest in keeping the status quo.
Many Republicans hail from conservative districts with low numbers of Latino voters and where sentiment toward immigrants who entered the country illegally is hostile. Getting out front of immigration reform could cost them their seat in a primary race.
One congressional analysis found 142 Republican-controlled congressional districts contain fewer than 10 percent Latino voters.
Rebecca Tallent, the Bipartisan Policy Center's director of immigration policy, says despite the major electoral advantages the Republican party might see nationally if it passed immigration reform, convincing House Republicans to get on board, is difficult.
"This debate doesn't matter in a lot of the local districts," Tallent says. "The House just isn't looking at national politics."
But Brent Wilkes, the executive director for the nonpartisan League of United Latin American Citizens, argues that Republicans in the House are going to need to pass immigration reform if they want any of their party's other goals to be realized.
"It doesn't do anything to just control the House. Republicans should be interested in trying to win national elections, win the Senate and the White House. That is the only way they can get rid of Obamacare," Wilkes says. "If they want to make progress on their own issues, they have to look past their own districts."
But even members of the Senate's "gang of eight" are losing resolve. These are the bipartisan senators who favor a comprehensive reform of the immigration system.
Sen. Marco Rubio, R- Fla., took a political gamble in pushing for comprehensive immigration reform in the Senate this spring but even he has acknowledged the political reality in the House — a comprehensive bill just doesn't stand a chance.
"We've been lectured for the better part of a month now how we need to be realistic, that Barack Obama was not going to repeal Obamacare," Rubio said in an interview with the Tampa Bay Times. "Likewise, I think supporters of immigration reform need to be realistic. The House is just not going to jump on board whatever the Senate passes."