Some critics say it's only theatrics, a waste of time on a political stunt that has no chance of succeeding. But they obviously don't see the true purpose of the "discharge petition" distributed by House Democrats last week.
Its only goal was to expose the immigration hypocrites. And it's working!
Using a seldom-deployed legislative procedure to force a vote on comprehensive immigration reform, the Democrats are flushing out the Republicans who claim to support it but lack the courage to defy their own GOP leadership.
Some background: Democrats believe they can get a majority of House members to pass a comprehensive reform bill if only the GOP leadership would allow such a bill to come up for a floor vote — especially since three Republicans are co-sponsors of such legislation, and some 30 others have said they would support it.
If Democrats could get a majority of the House's 435 members to sign the "discharge petition," they could override the GOP leadership and force the bill to come up for a vote.
They would need 218 signatures, including more than a dozen from Republicans, to override House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and his cowardly refusal to bring the bill, H.R. 15, to the House floor.
More background: Boehner started the year claiming he wanted to act on immigration and then balked on moving ahead with any legislation when his puppet strings were pulled by conservative extremists who prefer bashing immigrants during the midterm elections. With a straight face, Boehner claimed that Republicans could not support immigration reform because they cannot trust President Barack Obama to enforce any new laws — creating the need to override his refusal to lead, or to at least do his job.
Nevertheless, everyone knows the "discharge petition" — also being used to try to restore unemployment benefits — has very little chance of succeeding, because most Republicans are unwilling to defy Boehner and the immigrant-bashing conservative extremists who are really running the GOP nowadays.
But let's face it: Succeeding with the petition was not the purpose of this maneuver. The idea was to expose those Republicans — and even some Democrats — who come to the Hispanic community and claim to be our best amigos, who tell us they don't agree with the House leadership, that they realize the time has come for immigration reform, and who even say that their party is doomed if it remains in denial about changing demographics.
The purpose of the "discharge petition" was to call their bluff.
Some cynics say this is too political, that it will only be used as a tool for Democrats to appeal to Latino voters. But isn't that precisely what they should be doing? Shouldn't Latinos know exactly who their amigos really are? What's wrong with forcing two-faced politicians to define themselves?
"We're tired of the House of Representatives leaders and their refusal to act," said America Ferrera, the actress and immigration activist who stood on the steps of the Capitol Wednesday as dozens of House Democrats launched the "discharge petition."
Frankly, we're tired of more than that. We're tired of Republicans who admit their party will have a problem with Latino voters unless they change their ways and then go on supporting a party line that continues to alienate Latino voters. We're tired of their hypocrisy.
Even the three Republicans who are co-sponsoring an immigration reform bill in the House are refusing to sign the "discharge petition" — for their own bill! Can you get more hypocritical than that? And one of them is a Latina!
Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, the Miami congresswoman who claims to be an immigrant advocate and depends on the Latino vote, is suddenly under a magnifying glass. Is she more faithful to her party than her constituents? It sure looks that way.
Thanks to the "discharge petition," the time has come for House members to finally define themselves on immigration.
Of course, that will include Democrats, too.
By last Friday, 171 of the chamber's 199 Democrats had signed the petition. But where are the rest? And who are they?
Democrats or Republicans, Latinos and other pro-immigrant voters need to know who their real amigos are so we can vote accordingly.
To find out more about Miguel Perez and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.