In recent years, perhaps no issue has seen more sustained mobilization of ordinary people than the effort to press lawmakers for comprehensive, humane immigration reform.
Thousands rallied. Activists fasted on the National Mall, even eliciting a show of support from the president – a president who has repeatedly insisted that immigration is at the top of his political agenda. And it's not just the White House. A bipartisan working group in the Senate passed a comprehensive reform bill in June.
Immigration is the one issue that political observers opined could gain some traction in the fractured, partisan world of Washington, DC. Until Thursday, when this happened:
"Listen, there's widespread doubt about whether this administration can be trusted to enforce our laws. And it's going to be difficult to move any immigration legislation until that changes."
So, this week my letter goes to Speaker of the House John Boehner.
Dear Speaker Boehner,
It's me, Melissa.
You told the country this week that immigration reform is unlikely to happen this year because of the president? But I gotta say, it looks like you are the one standing in the way.
Now, I know you're aware of the widespread demonstrations showing support for reform. And it's not just activists, Mr. Speaker. It is American business leaders – Mark Zuckerberg, Marissa Meyer, and more of our nation's top CEOs have been calling for reform. Influential conservative groups have expressed support for it. Sixty-five percent of Americans agree that the current immigration system is either completely or mostly broken. And according to a poll from just last week, 81% of Americans support a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants who meet specific qualifications.
Even in your home state, Ohio, where, you know, you run for re-election every two years? Seventy-two percent of residents report that it is important for Congress to enact immigration reform. But it seems like maybe you are less interested in what is good for the economy, good for immigrant families and good for the American people. It seems you are more focused on what's good for your fellow House Republicans – like Representative Raul Labrador, who said on Tuesday that if you bring an immigration overhaul to the floor:
"I think it should cost him his speakership."
Oh, Mr. Speaker! Are you getting bullied by that itinerant conservative caucus – again! It might be worth remembering that, while Republicans in the House elected you speaker, it's the people who elected you to Congress in the first place. And when Ohio business leaders are flying into Washington to ask for reform, and constituents are staging rallies and protests and showing up at your Ohio office to demand action, maybe it is time to focus on them!
Immigration reform is not about whether you get to keep being called "Mr. Speaker." Americans across the country have been willing to put their bodies on the line for this reform. Undocumented activists have risked deportation and separation from their families.
They've put it all on the line. Maybe it's time you become willing to put your gavel on the line. You know, for the good of the country?