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Patrick Hickey immigration rally

Patrick Hickey, director of the Workers’ Rights Center, speaks at an immigration reform rally in Madison Friday.

As national Republican leaders squabble over their stance on immigration, activists in Wisconsin are taking to the streets to press leaders in the House of Representatives to act on a reform bill that the Senate passed in June.

Participants in the “License to Dream” tour of Voces de la Frontera rallied in Madison Friday to advocate for the economic boost that they say allowing undocumented workers to come out from the shadows would bring. The group gathered at the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation, 201 W. Washington Ave., whose slipshod administration has made it a symbol in the eyes of critics of the state's poor track record in job creation.

“We have chosen to rally here in front of the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation to highlight the failure of the state to create jobs and economic development and to propose a surefire way to spur Wisconsin’s economy — comprehensive immigration reform,” said Patrick Hickey, director of the Workers’ Rights Center in Madison. “We agree with 110 conservative economists who sent a letter to Congress in May highlighting the huge economic benefit of immigration reform. In 2012 Wisconsin was ranked 44th in job creation. We are calling on Republicans to stand up and do what’s right for our country.”

Activists began their tour Thursday in Milwaukee and will rally in nine more Wisconsin cities over the next few weeks. Other rallies are taking place around the country as well.

The Wisconsin tour is timed to the one-year anniversary of President Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) order. Obama instituted the policy granting some temporary rights to undocumented immigrants who entered the country as children because Congress failed for more than a decade to act on similar legislation.

Since Speaker of the House John Boehner, R-Ohio, announced that the House would not act on the Senate reform bill after its recess, disagreement over the party position on immigration reform has disrupted the leadership.

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Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus on Thursday used the term “horrific” to describe the phrase "self-deportation," the practice of making life for undocumented immigrants so awful that they decide to leave the United States without being deported. GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney embraced the phrase at times as did the party in its official platform on immigration last year.

Romney's defeat to Obama prompted much second-guessing among Republicans about their immigration stance, but vocal reform opponent U.S. Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, says the party’s poor showing in the election has put some Republicans under a “spell” on the issue.

Reform advocates argue, meanwhile, that providing a way for undocumented workers to earn legal status is supported by both parties. “Legalization with a path to citizenship is an increasingly bipartisan issue,” said Wisconsin State Representative JoCasta Zamarripa, D-Milwaukee. “Last month, 46 of my colleagues in the Wisconsin Senate and House, both Democrat and Republican, signed a letter urging the US Congress to support comprehensive immigration reform,” she said at a Milwaukee rally for reform.