Hundreds of advocates for immigration reform are protesting Idaho House representative Raul Labrador’s recent statement against reform by gathering at his office in Meridian today at 1:15 p.m for a press conference declaring, “We are not your pawns.”
“They just feel like this is a game to him. That he is playing with thousands of people in Idaho that live here and are undocumented. He is playing with their lives because they are in hopes of immigration reform,” said Ruby Mendez, a spokesperson for the Idaho Community Action Network. “For him to come out and say that the immigration bill is dead or it won’t even pass is definitely very upsetting for many people. They feel like they are being used.”
Labrador has been a supporter of immigration reform in the past, but in June he backed out of a bipartisan group sponsoring an immigration reform bill. Oct. 16, when asked by Huffington Post if immigration reform was dead he said yes, citing the Obama administration and the shutdown for why immigration reform would be impossible.
“I think it is,” Labrador told the Huffington Post. “For us to go to a negotiation, to the negotiating table with President Obama after what he has done over the last two and a half weeks, I think would be probably a very big mistake.”
But the Idaho Community Action Network and the Coalition For Immigration Rights in Idaho are skeptical of his recent comments, and in this press conference will call on Labrador to step up to bi-partisan leadership and sponsor new immigration bill HR15.
“Our main purpose is to call out on Labrador for two things. One is to co-sponsor a bill called HR15. Another one is to show leadership and call on [House] Speaker [John] Boehner to support the bill,” said Mendez.
For immigration advocates in Idaho, Labrador’s against renewed talk of immigration reform means he is playing political games with their lives.
“That is why we are using that term, 'pawns,' because we feel like we are a game to him. He can just say, ‘No more immigration reform,’” said Mendez. “He should know the difficulties many of these families go through because he was an immigration attorney. He personally lived and worked with these people. He should help his constituents in this situation.”
But Mendez and other supporters of immigration reform still believe Labrador can be the leader they need him to be.
“We have been pushing on Labrador because he has been very vocal about immigration reform. We definitely feel that he can be the type of leadership that pushes for passing immigration reform with bi-partisan leadership,” said Mendez.