House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) will lead a tour of House leaders next week aimed at educating Americans, and each other, about the history and importance of immigration to the United States. The tour, dubbed the “Become America” tour, will feature events and speeches aimed at overcoming opposition to the passage of comprehensive immigration reform, which has stumbled amidst opposition from conservatives.
“The lawmakers will attend events on Ellis Island and at the Museum of Jewish Heritage and the African Burial Ground National Monument, according to an itinerary of the trip,” Politico reported late Wednesday evening. “Leaders will speak at a naturalization ceremony, and the group will also have a breakfast meeting at Gracie Mansion with New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, a key advocate of immigration reform.”
In 2009, Cantor led a “listening tour” across the nation, bringing Republican leaders to meet with voters to discuss how the party could improve its policies and its political fortunes. The “Become America” tour, by contrast, will be less about listening to voters and more about educating them, since Republican leaders are convinced that the “nativist” faction within their party is the reason they cannot pass immigration reform.
The trip is being coordinated by the non-profit Faith & Politics Institute, and will include members of both parties, such as Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL), a persistent advocate of amnesty for illegal immigrants. In April, Guiterrez told a wealthy audience in Chicago that they owed it to the people who “wash the dishes” and “take care of your kids and mow your lawn” to support a path to U.S. citizenship for illegal aliens.
Officially, the “Become America” tour is meant to improve relations among the members of Congress who attend. But given the backdrop of pending immigration legislation, it is also clearly aimed at enabling those members to campaign for passage of a bill–any bill–that satisfies President Barack Obama’s demands. The president has said he will not sign immigration legislation that does not include a path to citizenship.
In June, only 6% of Americans said that immigration was the most important issue facing the country, up from 4% in April, according to Gallup polls. The economy, unemployment, dissatisfaction with government, health care, the federal debt/deficit, and family/moral decline were all listed as more important to Americans than immigration reform. No congressional tours have been planned to address those issues.