Janet Murguia: GOP Holds The Key, But Obama Must Stop Deportations On His Own

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A week after the head of the nation’s largest Latino civil rights group lashed out at President Obama for his record rate of immigrant deportations, Janet Murguia is in Texas putting pressure on House Republicans with a personal visit.

The National Council of La Raza president’s message to House Republicans, Murguia said to Fox News Latino on Tuesday, will be that they must “stop being the key barrier” to comprehensive immigration reform – or else. The leading civil rights group is pushing to register 250,000 new Hispanic voters in Texas and the Southwest.

Murguia, who plans to meet with Congressmen Joe Barton and Sam Johnson, both Republicans, in their home districts in the Lone Star State, said: “I’m telling the Texas delegation that Republicans in the House are the key barrier to comprehensive immigration reform, and that the Texas delegation can and must step up on advancing a bill or we’ll hold them accountable.”

In the eyes of Latino voters, [House Republicans] are seen as the key barrier to immigration reform and to reducing the level of deportations as a result of that.

— Janet Murguia, president of the National Council of La Raza

Murguia’s visits to the congressmen are part of the “Fast for Families Across America” campaign for comprehensive immigration reform. Fast for Families, a movement that kicked off last year with a fast led by several prominent immigrant rights leaders on the National Mall in Washington D.C., launched a cross-country bus tour in February that began in Los Angeles and aims to cover 18 states, with visits to more than 70 congressional representatives. The Texas stop is part of that campaign.

Murguia’s involvement in Tuesday’s event – which also will include faith leaders and Eliseo Medina, the former spokesman for the Service Employees International Union – comes a week after she made national headlines when she took aim at Obama for the nearly 2 million deportations that have occurred during his tenure,dubbing him “Deporter-in-chief” in a speech at an NCLR gala event.

Murguia said that NCLR had heard from the White House about her speech, but she declined to give details of that exchange.

“I’m not commenting on that,” she said. “We’re continuing to work with the White House on a number of fronts. We have a difference of opinion on whether the president can do more administratively on immigration.”

Prior to the speech, Murguia had received criticism for not putting more public pressure on Obama, who campaigned in 2008 and 2012 vowing to Latino voters that immigration reform would happen while he is president.

In June, the Senate passed a bipartisan comprehensive immigration reform bill that called for bolstering border security, expanding foreign worker visas and providing a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.

Efforts to pass an immigration reform bill have stalled in the House, where Republicans have a majority and the conservatives among them have said they will not pass a measure that provides a pathway to legal status for undocumented immigrants.

Asked about the high profile she has taken in the last week on putting pressure on Obama to reduce the deportations, Murguia said she and NCLR always have worked for comprehensive immigration reform.

“Last week NCLR got a lot of attention,” she said, “for calling on the president to use his authority to stop deportations. And I reaffirm that today. But it’s very important for us to also hold the House Republicans accountable for what they can to do advance immigration reform."

In fact, she pointed out, at the end of the day, the ball is in the Republicans' court.

"In the eyes of Latino voters, they are seen as they key barrier to immigration reform and to reducing the level of deportations as a result of that.”

Medina, who fasted at the National Mall for 22 days, and became the face of that effort, said Murguia’s presence on Tuesday gives the Fast for Families campaign a brighter spotlight.

“Janet has an important national profile,” he told Fox News Latino. “NCLR is a valuable ally. She was right to tell the president that he must take a more forceful role in stopping deportations. Even though he may not be able to single-handed change the flawed immigration system, and change the laws, he does have control administratively.”

Murguia said that the House must vote, if not on a version of the Senate bill – which conservatives strongly oppose – then on some kind of measure dealing with key aspects of immigration.

“We want them to bring a bill for a vote,” she said. “We want to see where individual members stand on immigration reform.”