Outsiders on both sides of immigration mobilizing supporters

by

As a wide-ranging national discussion over immigration builds to a crescendo, outside groups are taking to the airwaves, rallying their troops for or against reform.

The mammoth Service Employees International Union (SEIU), a political behemoth on and off Capitol Hill, is the latest group to throw its weight behind President Obama’s sweeping executive order allowing millions of undocumented immigrants to stay in the country temporarily.

While some Republicans in Congress are already formulating a double-barreled legislative package to undo Obama’s action, the SEIU’s campaign is targeting Republican senators with Spanish-language ads in seven states. All are from swing states. Some represent significant Hispanic populations; others have close ties to groups that have been pushing for some of the business-friendly immigration measures included in Obama’s order.

The targeted senators are: Marco Rubio of Florida, Mark Kirk of Illinois, Dean Heller of Nevada, Rob Portman of Ohio, Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania and Ron Johnson of Wisconsin.

Rubio, Kirk, Johnson, Portman and Toomey all face potentially competitive races in the next election cycle. In addition, Rubio and Portman are being talked about as potential presidential ticket material.

The union’s website boasts a membership of more than two million, spanning healthcare, property services (including janitors and maintenance workers) and public services.

All the ads follow the same script, with a narrator rattling off quotes on immigration from prominent Republicans in Spanish. An English translation from an SEIU press release reads:

In the battle for immigration reform, President Obama took a bold step forward to keep our families together. But Republican politicians respond with more opposition … and keep insulting our families. Enough! Our families deserve respect and a better future. Call Senator Rob Portman. Tell him to stand with our families and not with Republican extremists. Paid for by SEIU.

The SEIU ad campaign is just the latest salvo in a back and forth influence battle that entangles both special interests and the national party committees.

Americans United for Change, a liberal dark money group that supports immigration reform, has released a national TV ad spot quoting Ronald Reagan on the issue and went live on Nov. 25 with an online ad supporting the executive action, meanwhile the National Republican Senatorial Committee is hoping the president’s reforms will work against his party on the campaign trail.

The NRSC hit Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, who is desperately trying to escape defeat in a Saturday runoff election against Republican congressman Bill Cassidy, with a 30-second ad spot tying the incumbent to the President’s immigration plan.

“What makes President Obama think you can get away with granting amnesty to millions of illegals with the stroke of a pen?” A voice asks. “The support of people like Mary Landrieu. Landrieu voted to allow Obama’s executive order on immigration.”

With passions running high and a new Congress on deck, these ads are likely just the beginning of a long-running back and forth across America’s televisions.