WASHINGTON – The AFL-CIO launched a hard-edged ad campaign Wednesday that targets House Republicans for failing to back an overhaul of the nation's immigration system.
The ads, which include the tagline "Fight the Hate," show clips of controversial comments from conservatives, such as Alabama Rep. Mo Brooks' statement that he would do anything "short of shooting" undocumented workers to reduce the flow of illegal immigration.
Another clip shows Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, who has warned that passing legislation to provide citizenship to undocumented young people brought to the U.S. as children also would unfairly reward immigrants "hauling 75 pounds of marijuana across the desert."
The ads signal a more aggressive approach by labor leaders on the immigration overhaul, which passed the Democratic-controlled Senate earlier this year but has gained little traction in the GOP-led House. House Republican leaders prefer a more piecemeal approach, and some in the GOP caucus want to pass measures strengthening border security before provisions granting citizenship to those now in the country illegally.
"The time for the acting on immigration reform is now," Richard Trumka, the labor federation's president, said during a conference call Wednesday. "The labor movement has decided to throw down in a big way to make it happen."
The television commercials will run in Spanish in Bakersfield, Calif.; Denver; Atlanta; and Orlando, Fla.; and in English in the Washington market. He said the union would spend more than $1 million on the ads and did not rule out another round of advertising.
He said the goal of the campaign is two-fold: to spur the House to act this year and to hold individual Republicans accountable for their "hostile statements about Latino immigrants."
"The Republican Party controls the immediate fate and future of immigration reform," he said. "But Latino voters control the long-term fate and future of the Republican Party."
The announcement comes a day after President Obama gathered business leaders at the White House to help him urge House action on immigration legislation -- a shift from the administration's intense focus in recent weeks on the rocky rollout of the federal government's online health exchange.
Cory Fritz, a spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said his boss "supports step-by-step, common sense reforms to fix our broken immigration system."
Andrea Bozek, a spokeswoman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, said the labor federation's ad campaign is part of an attempt to by "Obama's liberal allies ... to distract from their failed health care law."
She said: "Republicans are focused on finding solutions to the broken system, not playing political games."
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