Immigrants and Allies Show Boehner What Happens When "It's Not Going to Happen"
National condemnation of Speaker's comments swift and massive; immigrants in Massachusetts start closing accounts at unsupportive banks
Nov. 16, 2013 BOSTON — "He did not expect us to be there," said Community Organizer Miguel Leal yesterday afternoon, describing the reaction of a Bank of America manager when a group of immigrants and allies handed him a letter explaining their decision to close their accounts. "And I could hear him on the phone with another executive saying, 'We need to meet, now!'"
The scene was sparked by the Republican Caucus' final refusal to pass comprehensive immigration reform in 2013.
On Wednesday, Speaker John Boehner said that House action "is not going to happen" on a Senate immigration reform bill passed with overwhelming bipartisan support in June. "And frankly," the Ohio Republican continued, "I’ll make clear we have no intention of ever going to conference on the Senate bill."
In response, immigrants in Massachusetts are saying that if immigration reform is not going to happen, then business is not going to happen with those that have not publicly supported reform, including Bank of America.
Elsewhere across the nation, immigrant and their allies have also reacted strongly to the Speaker's statements. Responses ranged from a "Youth in Action" march to the Speaker's doorstep on Capitol Hill that took place yesterday, to numerous powerful statements and interviews, in which many immigrants and their allies predicted Latino voters would reject Republican candidates even more strongly than they did in 2012, when the Latino abandonment of Republicans caused Speaker Boehner to promise quick action on immigration reform the day after the election.
Now a story in Cleveland's main daily newspaper, The Plain Dealer, shows that many Republican House members from Ohio may already be in danger of losing their seats as a result of not moving on that promise:
"[A] poll, released this week, found strong support among Republican, Democrat and independent voters for [immigration] reform proposals and in each of the three groups more than 67 percent of the respondents said changes should be enacted this year.
Respondents indicated that a candidate’s position on immigration reform would affect their support. Forty-nine percent said they would be more likely to support an elected official if they had voted for immigration reform. Conversely, 48 percent said they would be more likely to oppose a candidate who had opposed reform.
All 16 congressional seats in Ohio will be up for election in 2014. Republicans presently control 12 of those seats"
In Massachusetts, all nine House seats are held by Democrats who have endorsed H.R. 15, a bill that closely follows the Senate bill (but without its harsh border enforcement) and that could pass the House today if put to a floor vote.
A number of Massachusetts immigrants have elected to make their displeasure heard by closing their accounts at Bank of America, which was ranked in 2009 as the Speaker's third largest donor, and which refused to endorse or even accept a letter that advocates in Massachusetts tried to give them on October 5, asking for their support. The new letter these immigrants are submitting when they close their accounts reads in part:
Hundreds of other prominent corporations, including Fortune 500 companies and many financial institutions, have already taken a stand in supporting commonsense immigration reform...I am deeply disappointed that Bank of America has not joined these business voices in calling for just, humane, and commonsense immigration reform. As a firm believer in our nation’s need for a comprehensive approach to fixing our broken immigration system, I cannot in good conscience continue to be a loyal customer of Bank of America.
"We thoroughly reject the notion that there is no time to pass reform this year," said Eva Millona, Executive Director of the Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition (MIRA). "Voters spoke last November, the Senate spoke in June, Ohioans made their opinions clear this week, and common decency has always said that reform must happen now, so that families, communities and our economy can be kept whole, healthy, and prosperous. It's never too late to do the right thing."