The AFL-CIO launched a seven-figure ad campaign on Wednesday to call out Republicans who labor leaders say have been blocking immigration reform legislation in Congress.
“The time for acting on immigration reform is now, and the labor movement has decided to throw down in a big way to make it happen,” AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said in a call with reporters Wednesday.
Starting Wednesday, the television commercials will air in Spanish in four cities with large populations of Latino voters: Bakersfield, Denver, Atlanta and Orlando. They will also be broadcasted in English in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area. All together, the ads have a price tag of more than $1 million.
The ads include Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) saying undocumented young immigrants are more likely to be “hauling 75 pounds of marijuana across the desert” than to be valedictorians. Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas) is also quoted referring to the DREAM Act as “a nightmare for the American people.”
The ads also show Rep. Paul Broun (R-Georgia) saying undocumented immigrants are “criminals and they need to be treated as such” and Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Alabama) saying he would do “anything short of shooting” undocumented workers to prevent them from “taking jobs from American citizens.”
Trumka said the ad campaign has two main objectives: to spur House Republicans to act on immigration reform this year and to hold Republican members of Congress accountable for previous “hostile statements about Latino immigrants.”
“The Republican Party controls the immediate fate and future of immigration reform, but Latino voters control the long-term fate and future of the Republican Party,” he added.
In addition to the ads, the AFL-CIO also plans to launch in-district mobilization efforts to increase pressure on House Republicans to support immigration reform legislation that includes a path to citizenship and protection of workers’ rights.
Election teaches GOP a lesson on immigration reform, Latino voters
The launch of the AFL-CIO’s ad campaign comes a day after Tuesday’s elections. Immigration reform supporters say the election results — especially those of the gubernatorial races in New Jersey and Virginia — show that candidates who support immigration reform and reach out to Latinos are more likely to pick up more Latino votes.
Tom Snyder, AFL-CIO immigration campaign director, said in the call with reporters Wednesday that he suspects tea party Republicans were “shaking their heads” Wednesday morning after seeing exit poll results, which showed the winners of the gubernatorial races in New Jersey and Virginia picked up support from many Latino voters.
In Virginia, Republican candidate Ken Cuccinelli won 29 percent of the Latino vote and lost his bid for governor against Democrat challenger Terry McAuliffe, who won 66 percent of the Latino vote, according to a Latino Decisions poll.
Immigrant rights supporters say Cucinnelli’s tough stance on immigration and past remarks in which they say he compared immigrants to rats alienated many Latino voters.
In New Jersey, Republican Gov. Chris Christie won roughly half of the Latino vote and went on to beat his Democratic challenger Barbara Buono.
Snyder said Christie was not the candidate the labor movement supported. However, he applauded the Republican governor for his efforts to reach out to Latino voters and for backing a state-level DREAM Act bill that would allow undocumented students to pay in-state tuition.
Similarly, Ali Noorani, executive director of the National Immigration Forum, said Christie’s stances on various issues — such as his support of immigration reform legislation with a pathway to citizenship — played a major role in helping him appeal to Latino voters and win the election. Noorani added that Christie’s win teaches House Republicans this lesson:
“Commonsense and bipartisan solutions to issues like immigration reform are a path back to relevance with Latino voters, and a path to victory with the general electorate.”