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League of nations lobbying immigration bill

Move over Mexico — Irish, Jewish and Chinese interests also pressing Congress

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Mexico and other Latin American nations may be the central players in the roiling, months-long congressional debate over how to legislate immigration reform.

But a little-known cast of organizations representing an array of ethnicities and nationalities are pressing the federal government on the issue, too.

One such organization is Cambridge, Ma.-based company Cultural Care Au Pair, which places foreign au pairs, hailing from countries that include Australia, China, Italy, Poland, Sweden Switzerland and Thailand, with American families.

The firm last week hired two well-connected lobbyists from Thorsen French Advocacy to try to sway lawmakers on the immigration bill, according to federal documents filed Friday.

One is Carlyle Thorsen, a former general counsel for ex-House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Texas, and a former deputy assistant attorney general. The other is James French, a former House Judiciary Committee counsel.

Their lower-chamber connections come to bear as immigration reform action moves to the House following the Senate’s recent 68-32 passage of legislation overhauling the country’s immigration system.

A Cultural Care Au Pair spokeswoman did not respond to requests for comment, although Politico reports the company wants to ensure lawmakers don’t further regulate the au pair industry.  

The Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform committed $40,000 to lobbying on the legislation in the year’s first three months. According to the ILIT’s website, the group supports the Senate’s bill because it provides a path to citizenship for Irish immigrants and 10,500 renewable work visas annually to individuals from Ireland.

The Asian American Justice Center also attempted to influence members of Congress on immigration reform, but only spent less than $5,000 doing so from the beginning of January through the end of March.

Erin Oshiro, an immigration attorney for the AAJC, said the group has been most concerned with the 4.3 million people waiting for family visa approval, a backlog that disproportionately affects Asian-American families. She said the Senate properly addressed the issue and that the AAJC will continue to press the House to ensure immigrant families can stay together when immigrating.

“We’re hopeful the House can take the lead of the Senate and keep this moving forward,” Oshiro said.

Several religious and cultural groups are also lobbying lawmakers on immigration legislation.

A coalition of Jewish organizations, for instance, has made enacting immigration reform a top priority this year.

“This issue speaks to the core of our moral being and our Jewish values,” said Sammie Moshenberg, the director of Washington operations for the National Council of Jewish Women. “For many of us, the immigrant experience isn’t that far removed.”

Moshenberg said the National Council of Jewish Women, which spent $10,000 lobbying Congress on the bill and other issues during the first quarter of the year, has focused mostly on providing a path to citizenship to immigrants in the country illegally, family reunification and ensuring women have an equal opportunity to come to the U.S. from other countries.

HIAS, formerly known as the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, has specifically lobbied on the refugee and asylum provisions of the bill. HIAS spent less than $5,000 lobbying on the bill during the first three months of the year.

The Senate’s legislation lifts the one-year deadline those seeking asylum in the U.S. face to apply for a visa, a move HIAS applauded.

Melanie Nezer, the senior director for policy and advocacy at HIAS, said the group also supports the extension of an amendment originally introduced by the late Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., which provides refugee status for persecuted religious minorities in other countries.

Both Moshenberg and Nezer acknowledged the Senate’s immigration bill has its flaws, but that their organizations would continue to push the House to pass similar legislation.

“As with any compromise, it’s not perfect,” Moshenberg said, adding the Senate bill was still “a tremendous step forward.”

The American Jewish Committee also put $40,000 into its immigration lobbying efforts through March, federal records show.

Overall, hundreds of interest groups have lobbied the federal government on the comprehensive immigration reform measure this year.

That list includes some of the heaviest hitters in Washington, such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, AFL-CIO, Facebook, Google, Microsoft and Intel, as well as various smaller operations.