Taxpayer-Funded Immigrant Advocacy Group Blasts Republicans

Helps those seeking deportation relief, tells them to vote against GOP

Supporters of immigration reform / AP
December 15, 2014

An immigrant advocacy group that receives taxpayer funding condemned Republicans on Sunday and encouraged undocumented residents seeking deportation relief to solicit political support from young voters.

The New York Times reported that groups including the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles (CHIRLA) hosted an information session for about 5,000 unauthorized immigrants at the Los Angeles Convention Center. Immigrants received assessments about whether they would be among the millions who could qualify for three-year deportation deferrals and work permits under President Obama’s executive order.

The event was also explicitly political in nature. CHIRLA executive director Angelica Salas reportedly blasted Republicans for "getting in the way of immigration reform." A slide show presented during orientation for the session featured unflattering pictures of House Speaker John Boehner (R., Ohio) and House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R., Calif.).

CHIRLA was awarded $250,000 in federal funds this year by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services’ (USCIS) Citizenship and Integration Grant Program, which sponsors organizations that assist permanent residents applying for citizenship. The overt political activity of the group raises questions about its support from taxpayers.

A CHIRLA spokesman did not respond to a request for comment.

A spokeswoman for USCIS noted that grant recipients can only use the funds to help lawful permanent residents prepare for the naturalization process, such as the civics and English test. 

Thousands of undocumented immigrants have attended workshops across the country to determine whether they qualify under Obama’s order. Immigrants who have lived in the United States for five years, avoided serious criminal charges, and have a child who is an American citizen or legal permanent resident can apply for the deportation reprieve and work permits. Nearly 5 million could avoid deportation.

Republicans view Obama’s order as an unconstitutional action that should have originated from the legislative process. More than 20 states so far have filed lawsuits to impede the action.

Some immigration experts say the temporary legalization program could lower the annual earnings of Americans during a time when many are struggling with stagnant wages.

Salas left no doubt about one of the political motives behind the event for immigrants in Los Angeles. She urged attendees living here illegally to secure political support from those who can vote.

"All those children are going to be voters," she said, "and those voters are going to remember who stood with their dad and their mom."