Advocates to GOP allies: Use Tea Party tactics to move immigration

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Advocates of immigration reform are calling on their House Republicans allies to adopt Tea Party tactics to force party leaders to bring legislation to the floor by the end of the year.

A week after hailing a trio of Republicans for signing on to a comprehensive immigration bill, liberal advocates turned up the heat on two of them and vowed to campaign for their defeat if they didn’t do more to pressure Speaker John BoehnerJohn BoehnerEXCLUSIVE: Pro-Hillary group takes 0K in banned donations Ryan: Benghazi report shows administration's failures Clinton can't escape Benghazi responsibility MORE (R-Ohio).

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“Lovely as it is that three Republicans have put their names on H.R. 15, that’s not nearly enough,” said Tom Snyder, the immigration campaign director at the AFL-CIO. He was referring to House immigration legislation introduced by Democrats that is modeled on the bipartisan Senate bill that passed in June.

Snyder and other advocates held a press conference Thursday to announce actions, including television ads, targeting nine House Republicans that hail from swing districts with a significant share of Latino voters. Two of those lawmakers, Reps. Jeff Denham (Calif.) and David Valadao (Calif.), won praise from immigration reformers last week when they endorsed the House Democratic bill.

A third Republican co-sponsor, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (Fla.), is not a target of the lobbying effort because she is not as politically vulnerable and has long supported immigration reform, the advocates said.

The three Republicans supporters are well short of the party majority that BoehnerJohn BoehnerEXCLUSIVE: Pro-Hillary group takes 0K in banned donations Ryan: Benghazi report shows administration's failures Clinton can't escape Benghazi responsibility MORE has said is needed before any immigration legislation is brought to the floor. But Snyder pointed to the success in September of “a few dozen determined Tea Party Republicans” in forcing party leaders to back a government shutdown that they initially tried to resist.

“We need them to create something similar,” Snyder said. “It’s great that they co-sponsored, but the work doesn’t stop there. We have to have results, and the Tea Party shutdown is a perfect example of what we want to get to in that it wasn’t a majority of Republicans who wanted to shut down, it was a small group of Tea Party Republicans who organized their colleagues.

“That’s what we want Denham and Valadao to do,” he added.

In statements, Denham and Valadao each defended their efforts and said they would continue pushing their leadership on immigration.

“Like all those advocating for comprehensive immigration reform, I understand and share in their frustration,” Valadao said. “Now is not the time for bitter rhetoric or divisive politics. The facts are on our side, responsible immigration reform will be a good thing for America.”

Denahm said his “immediate goal is to show Speaker Boehner how much support there is for full reform.”

The groups behind the effort have dubbed it the “Cost of Inaction” campaign, and it is a shift toward a campaign posture for Democratic-aligned groups like the AFL-CIO and the Service Employees International Union.

“The groups here are going to be throwing down in a whole new way,” said Frank Sharry, a leading immigration reform advocate and the executive director of America’s Voice.

The other seven Republicans they are targeting are Reps. Buck McKeon (Calif.), Gary Miller (Calif.), Scott Tipton (Colo.), Mike Coffman (Colo.), Daniel Webster (Fla.), Steve Pearce (N.M.) and Joe Heck (Nev.).

The group plans to hold events in those lawmakers' districts and organize activists to make direct contact with their constituents.

House GOP leaders have not announced plans to vote on any immigration proposals, and with just a few weeks left in the 2013 legislative schedule, a vote this year is unlikely.

— This story was updated at 3:08 p.m.