The Service Employees International Union will turn its attention from healthcare to immigration reform ahead of the 2010 midterm elections.

"We are stepping up our immigration reform efforts as a union-wide national campaign the same that way we did for healthcare," Javier Morillo, the union's immigration campaign director, told The Ballot Box. "We are full-bore working on this. We are moving to get this done this year."

SEIU will use member education, canvassing and paid media as part of its effort.

One of the top priorities of the SEIU's immigration reform "war room" is stopping the copycat bills similar to Arizona's anti-illegal immigration measure that other states have introduced. "It's about using it on [the GOP] side for short-term electoral gain," he said.

Morillo noted 14 states have proposed similar legislation, including such midterm battlegrounds as Pennsylvania, Colorado, Missouri and Ohio.

"We're taking on these Arizona copycat laws to make the case for why we need a comprehensive solution and that it can really only be done by the federal government," he said.

Union officials and some conservative Democrats have expressed concern that taking up immigration reform could hurt the party's chances in 2010, but Morillo said the opposite is true. "The politics of this are such that the Republican Party will relegate itself to minority status if they continue to do things like Arizona."
Union members understand why immigration reform needs to happen, he added.

"Rooting out those who exploit our broken system for profit, that is important to all workers," Morillo said. "Comprehensive immigration reform is just one key piece of something that needs to happen that will benefit all workers."

The White House has reassured union officials it considers immigration reform a legislative priority, Morillo said.

"We've had assurances from the very beginning that they're serious about getting it done," he said. "The White House can't move this alone, they understand this."