Dems urge White House to shun Ariz. immigration bill, push for reform

Two House Democrats on Tuesday urged President Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaYoung, diverse voters fueled Biden victory over Trump Biden's relationship with top House Republican is frosty The Memo: The Obamas unbound, on race MORE to shun an immigration enforcement bill in Arizona — an attempt to put new pressure on him to enact comprehensive immigration reforms at the federal level.

Reps. Luis GutierrezLuis Vicente GutierrezBiden's inauguration marked by conflict of hope and fear The Hill's Campaign Report: Democratic primary fight shifts to South Carolina, Nevada Democrats rally behind incumbents as Lipinski takes liberal fire MORE (D-Ill.) and Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.) asked Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer, a Republican, to reject a bill requiring, among other things, that police question and demand documentation from suspected illegal immigrants. The Arizona state Senate on Monday cleared the bill for the governor's signature.


But Gutierrez and Grijalva also asked Obama to call for a veto, either by warning of federal pre-emption of the law itself or by threatening Arizona’s federal funding.

"I'm sure the president could get the governor on the phone — I bet you that wouldn't be too hard to do — and say, 'Don't do this, because it could affect funding … from the federal government. It could affect the relationship between the federal government and the state of Arizona,’ ” Gutierrez said. "I'm sure that if you posted signs that said you could drive 85 miles per hour, in spite of the 65 mile-per-hour limit, something tells me you might not get highway funds.

"There are consequences," said Gutierrez.

Brewer has not taken a position on the legislation, according to The Associated Press.

Grijalva warned Brewer that the law, if enacted, could lead to other negative consequences for the state — in the form of what he called “economic sanctions.”

"We are going to be urging national organizations — religious, civic, labor, Latino, of color — to refrain from spending their dollars on conventions and in national activities in the state of Arizona," Grijalva said. "There have to be hard economic sanctions for this."

But both Democrats stressed that the best thing Obama can do for the immigrant community is match his rhetoric supporting comprehensive immigration reform with a push for that to actually take place in Congress.

"In the end it all comes back to the president of the United States, Barack Obama, and whether he will put his back into the push for comprehensive immigration reform," Gutierrez said. "The political imperative could not be more clear."

"The fact that human rights, basic civil rights, are going to be suspended for immigrants and for United States citizens of color should be a warning to the rest of this nation," Grijalva said. "And that warning is that we need to make sure that the federal government, the White House and this Congress, deals with comprehensive immigration reform now."

Gutierrez, who chairs the Congressional Hispanic Caucus's immigration task force, has become the Democrats’ leading antagonist on immigration policy. He has been quick to criticize Obama for what he said amounts to a broken campaign promise to Latinos.

In an interview published in The Hill this week, Gutierrez cautioned that the "anger, disillusionment [and] dissatisfaction" that he feels toward Obama could lead to a kind of civil disobedience. If progress isn’t made on a comprehensive immigration bill, he said, Hispanic voters could very well stay home in November — with his blessing.

On Tuesday he repeated part of that warning, saying that he would not rule out actively urging Hispanics to stay home on Election Day.

"There is [another] option for those voters," Gutierrez said of Hispanics who've been pushed into "the waiting arms of Democrats" by the anti-immigrant rhetoric of the GOP. "They don’t necessarily have to fill the ranks of the Democratic Party. They can simply stay home.

"And that, to me, seems to be an option that is there," Gutierrez continued. "It is not what I have called for. But — let me just [be] clear — it's not an option that I have ruled out."

Grijalva issued a more tempered call to arms.

"I join with Luis in asking our president to move immigration reform so that these kind of aberrations that are happening in Arizona on immigration do not become the standard operating policy for the rest of the country," said Grijalva, a co-chairman of the House Progressive Caucus, whose healthcare wish-list was decimated by the White House's endorsement of the Senate health reform bill.

Yet Gutierrez and Grijalva agreed that the president's first step should be to endorse an immigration reform measure authored by Sens. Charles SchumerChuck SchumerHouse conservatives take aim at Schumer-led bipartisan China bill There will be no new immigration law under Biden, unless he changes course This week: Congressional leaders to meet with Biden amid GOP reckoning MORE (D-N.Y.) and Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamHouse conservatives take aim at Schumer-led bipartisan China bill There will be no new immigration law under Biden, unless he changes course McConnell safe in power, despite Trump's wrath MORE (R-S.C.).

"The president needs to begin to work harder and bring the people together so that we can get this process started in the Senate, and it must begin immediately," Gutierrez said. "We have, according to [Senate Majority Leader Harry] Reid [D-Nev.], a window, and that window is between Memorial Day and the Fourth of July. … We need to begin to get the bill marked up."

Reid has pledged to ready the Schumer-Graham bill for the Senate floor, likely ahead of the chamber's consideration of a Supreme Court nominee. But some are skeptical the Senate can add another major item to its full 2010 calendar, let alone one as contentious as immigration.

Yet Reid, who has tied immigration reform to his own reelection chances in Nevada, appears to be undeterred.

Gutierrez, who led the bipartisan team of House negotiators when Congress last attempted an immigration overhaul, in 2006, suggested that forging a House Democratic consensus around the Schumer-Graham bill would be far easier than it was to get the House and Senate to agree on healthcare.

"We love the outline that they suggested to us," Gutierrez said. "We'd like them to fill it in so that we can begin to work and to add and to make sure that a bill comes forward out of the Senate so we can work here in the House."