Martinez, activists spar over immigration
BY CASEY WOODS
Sen. Mel Martinez, stung by a national immigrant advocacy group campaign urging him to be more aggressive on immigration law reform, defended his work on the issue Tuesday.
''It's disappointing there are groups out there ready to drive wedges and politicize this critically important issue,'' Martinez wrote The Miami Herald in an e-mail. ``I've been working since day one on this matter, and for clearly partisan groups to design a national campaign and put out advertisements signals to me that they're more interested in creating a divide than working toward a solution.''
The campaign to pressure Martinez will include ads on Spanish-language radio stations in Miami and vigils in several Florida cities.
''Martinez needs to stand by his values and stand by his position and break the gridlock on comprehensive immigration reform in the Senate,'' said the Coalition for Comprehensive Immigration Reform's Clarissa Martinez at a news conference at Little Havana's Versailles Restaurant on Tuesday. ``Martinez is a moderate leader in the party . . . and we need him to play a more aggressive role.''
Last year, Martinez -- now chairman of the Republican National Committee -- helped broker the compromise immigration-reform legislation supported by many advocates. The negotiations he is helping lead this year, however, have not yet produced a bill. And advocates warn that time is running out before the charged atmosphere of the presidential election cycle will make reform impossible.
Martinez is part of a bipartisan Senate committee working on an immigration reform compromise, and lawmakers have struggled over issues such as the possible path to citizenship for millions of undocumented immigrants.
Organizers, who include the SEIU Florida Healthcare Union and Democracia Ahora, say they also will launch similar campaigns focusing on other lawmakers involved in the negotiations, such as Republican Sens. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania and John Cornyn of Texas.
The committee members are reportedly planning to dedicate time in mid-May to negotiate legislation.