Democratic Super-PAC Turns Up the Heat on Immigration Reform

| Thu Jul. 18, 2013 12:47 PM EDT

There's no endgame yet for comprehensive immigration reform, but the lopsided reform ad wars, which are largely focused now on targeting House Republicans in Latino-heavy districts with Spanish-language TV and radio ads, may become central to securing a path to citizenship for the country's 11 million undocumented immigrants. The House Majority PAC, a Democratic super-PAC, continued the ad wars on Thursday with a two-week, $175,000 ad buy targeting three lawmakers who have already faced considerable pressure from pro-reform groups. The Spanish-language TV ads take aim at...

Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Colo.): In 2009, Coffman took over the Colorado district formerly represented by Rep. Tom Tancredo, an anti-immigrant hardliner who once called the National Council of La Raza, a pro-reform group, a "Latino KKK without the hoods or the nooses." Coffman has his own history that includes warning that President Obama would try to steal the 2012 election by giving amnesty to undocumented immigrants and supporting Arizona's Draconian immigration laws that the Supreme Court partially struck down last year. But after a 2011 redistricting, Coffman's Latino constituency doubled, and this February he said he supported legal status for undocumented immigrants and a path to citizenship for those brought into the country as minors.

Rep. Joe Heck (R-Nev.): Heck is one of just 15 House Republicans representing a district won by Obama in 2012. His district includes sizable Latino and Asian-American populations that have hammered him on immigration reform, but Heck also faces heavy pressure from the local Republicans opposed to reform who voted him into office. He's tried to appease both groups, expressing openness to a path to citizenship while voting last month for Rep. Steve King's (R-Iowa) amendment to deport undocumented immigrants brought into the country as children (Coffman also voted in favor). Recently, Heck's kept a low profile—the National Journal explained how he uses his Army training to navigate the Capitol's basement tunnels without being detected by reformers.

Rep. Gary Miller (R-Calif.): Miller represents a district that houses the Inland Empire, a metropolitan area east of Los Angeles that's more than 40 percent Latino. During his eight terms in the House, he's suggested deporting millions of undocumented immigrants, whom he's frequently referred to as "illegals," and opposed birthright citizenship. Like Coffman, Miller was recently redistricted and now represents many more immigrants, and there are signs he may also be softening his views. He recently purged several anti-immigration videos from his YouTube page, and his office is hedging on where he stands on reform. But Miller, too, voted for King's deportation amendment last month.

"House Republicans are working on a step-by-step, common-sense approach to fix what has long been a broken system, and these three members in particular are working hard in their districts to listen to the voices of their constituents, especially within the Hispanic community," Daniel Scarpinato, a National Republican Campaign Committee spokesman, told Politico in response to the ads. "Unfortunately, Democrats ignored the immigration issue when they controlled the House, and Republicans are cleaning up their mess." Many Republican operatives see immigration reform as vital to the continued relevance of their party, but top Democrats—including President Obama—have made clear that anything less than a bill with a path to citizenship, which House GOP leadership has yet to embrace, is a non-starter.