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Immigraton reform: Nine groups to watch

Protesters in front of Sen. Marco Rubio's (R-FL) office on May 22, 2013 in Doral, Florida.   (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
Protesters in front of Sen. Marco Rubio's (R-FL) office on May 22, 2013 in Doral, Florida.

While only 100 Senators will vote on the Gang of Eight immigration reform bill, there are thousands of staff at various advocacy organizations who have been working hard to push their group's agenda--either for or against--the comprehensive immigration bill that would provide a path to citizenship. Here are some basics about the leading organizations working to influence the legislation that is likely to dominate this summer’s congressional calendar.

The American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL–CIO)

This national trade union has put its weight behind workers’ rights issues. This spring, the AFL-CIO and Chamber of Commerce carefully negotiated a deal on a guest worker program for non-seasonal, non-agricultural workers.The labor group recently disagreed with amendments to expand a high-tech visa program, but they still strongly endorse comprehensive reform and are actively lobbying for its passage. 

America’s Voice

This pro-immigration reform group works in partnership with dozens of grassroots and religious groups to support reform legislation. America’s Voice supports local and community organizations around the country by providing information and connecting them with one another. America’s Voice recently rallied against the markup of a House bill at the Judiciary Committee that would criminalize all undocumented immigrants.The group considers itself a communications hub for the immigration reform movement; its executive director, Frank Sharry, has been especially vocal in the media.


Center for Immigration Studies (CIS)

This think tank, which conducts research on the impact of immigration in the United States, has consistently opposed the current bill, calling the Gang of Eight legislation an “Amnesty Bill” and repeatedly criticizing one of bill’s authors, Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida. The group has been vocal in support of mandatory E-Verify, an online system that allows employers to check the legal status of job applicants. CIS argues that the Senate bill will double the number of temporary workers in the U.S. However, many groups have criticized the methodology of their research, and the Southern Poverty Law Center has labeled the group a “nativist organization.”


Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) 

Another group opposing the Gang of Eight bill, FAIR advocates for changes in the immigration system that would result in lower levels of legal and illegal immigration. Border security is a big focus for FAIR, and the group has been highly critical of the Senate bill over its guest worker provisions and path to legalization. FAIR commissioned polls across seven states which found strong disapproval of the latest Senate bill.


The Heritage Foundation

The conservative think tank has aggressively fought the Senate’s immigration reform bill, even launching a $100,000 ad campaign against the legislation. More recently, they have focused on what they claim are the high costs of the bill, pushing back on a Congressional Budget Office report that says the immigration reform bill could reduce the federal deficit by almost $200 billion over the next decade.


National Council of La Raza

The National Council of La Raza (NCLR) is the largest national Hispanic civil rights and advocacy organization in the United States. Earlier this month, they released a report studying Latinos in California. The report makes an economic argument that naturalized citizens are more likely to invest and be engaged financially in the U.S. upon receiving citizenship. The group has focused its activities at state and local levels and encourages Hispanic engagement at all levels.


Numbers USA

Numbers USA is one of the country’s largest anti-amnesty groups and has been a significant voice throughout the debate. They advocate for stricter limits on immigration and oppose the Senate immigration bill. They have launched ad campaigns which point to high unemployment numbers as a primary reason that the United States should restrict immigration.


Religious Groups

A variety of religious communities have been vocal and active in pushing for what they call “compassionate comprehensive immigration reform.” Some of these religious institutions have a membership including many who are undocumented or have relatives who are, but not all of the groups have immigrant congregants. As more Hispanics are turning to evangelical Protestantism, the Southern Baptist Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission has amped up their involvement by sponsoring radio ads and billboards featuring pastors in 13 states. The Evangelical Immigration Table, a coalition of religious leaders, has also been rallying for passage of the bill— calling for prayer, running ads, and meeting with influential Senate members. These evangelical leaders are hoping they can give Republican lawmakers some cover from the right to support the bill.


United We Dream

What does this group hope can turn the stereotype of immigrants upside down? The sight of civically active, well-educated, Hispanic young people. United We Dream is the largest immigrant youth-led organization in the nation and has organized protests and rallies throughout the debate. Originally organized around the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act, the group has coordinated emotional reunions at the U.S.-Mexico border for families to see each other. These Dreamers, as they call themselves, also operate a media campaign with viral videos spreading their message.