Jerry Nadler Joins Immigration Advocates Targeting Michael Grimm

Congressman Jerry Nadler today.

Congressman Jerry Nadler today.

Congressman Jerry Nadler wants the lone Republican in the city’s Congressional delegation to get lost.

Speaking at an immigration reform rally this morning, Mr. Nadler took aim at Republican Congressman Michael Grimm, whom advocates charge has not done enough to pass comprehensive immigration reform.

But Mr. Nadler made clear that Mr. Grimm’s party identification was a big part of the problem.

“I’m not blaming Grimm alone, he just happens to be the only Republican in New York,” said Mr. Nadler during an event at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Midtown organized by New Yorkers for Real Immigration Reform kicking off 11-mile pilgrimage to Mr. Grimm’s Staten Island office, where they will stage a three-day fast and vigil.

During the event, speakers blamed Republicans for their inaction on an immigration reform bill that has stalled in the House. Republican Speaker John Boehner has refused to bring the bill, which passed the senate in June and would create a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, to a vote. Mr. Grimm realistically has little power to force a vote, but that hadn’t stopped Democrats and immigrants groups from targeting him.

“We are going to march today to demand that Michael Grimm look into his heart, to look into his heart and support an immigration law that is just and merciful,” 32BJ Vice President Shirley Aldebol said during the rally.

“He’s the local face of it, put it that way. I’m not saying he’s more responsible than all the other Republicans,” echoed Mr. Nadler–who left the press conference early and is not participating in the fast. “He is equally responsible because the fact is we do believe there are a majority of votes now and Boehner and company–not just Boehner, Republican leadership–refuses to bring the bill to the floor.”

Mr. Grimm is facing a stiff challenge next year from Democrat Domenic Recchia, a term-limited Brooklyn city councilman, and Democrats and liberals in the city have already begun targeting him–staging rallies outside of his office and running attack ads on local television. And it appears immigration reform will be the first salvo in their war against the Staten Island lawmaker, who remains a favorite to retain his relatively conservative seat.

At the kickoff rally today, protesters waved black-and-white signs with sinister-looking images of Mr. Grimm. Printed below his face were phrases, in English and Spanish, such as, “Keep our families together.”

Mr. Grimm opposes the senate version of the immigration reform bill, but has expressed openness to creating a path to citizenship for some undocumented workers–as long as certain conditions are met.

“Immigration is a huge issue that I know we need to fix, and we’re getting close,” he reportedly told one immigration activist in a video, according to the Huffington Post.

Update (4:05 p.m.): Mr. Grimm issued a two-part response.

“This is coming from a member of Congress who wants to take Staten Island’s toll problem from bad to worse by returning to the days of two-way tolls on the Verrazano Bridge,” Mr. Grimm charged against Mr. Nadler. “He’s also a vocal supporter of my opponent, which begs the question: Will Domenic Recchia carry the weight of his good friend Jerry Nadler and support his preposterous toll proposal?  Two way tolls are non-starter for Staten Island and they’re a non-starter for me.”

Mr. Grimm also said he is in fact committed to overhauling the nation’s immigration policies.

“Our legal immigration system is broken and must be fixed,” he said. “I have been working closely with my House colleagues, like Rep. Mario-Diaz Balart, on a reform package that will close our borders, institute e-verify, and grow our economy.  I’m in no rush to jump ship and sign onto another bill while these efforts are underway.”

Update (5:23 p.m): Mr. Nadler’s spokesan ripped Mr. Grimm for taking an “offensive, childish, and barely-veiled” shot at Mr. Nadler’s physical appearance.

“Maybe Congressman Grimm should spend less time making offensive, childish, and barely-veiled references to a colleague’s physical appearance, and attempting to change the subject, and more time standing up for much-needed immigration reform,” said Aaron Keyak, a spokesman for Mr. Nadler. “Instead of fighting for those in his district who would greatly benefit from immigration reform, Congressman Grimm has chosen to continue standing with Speaker Boehner and the far right of the Republican Party in refusing to bring a vote to the floor.”

Jerry Nadler Joins Immigration Advocates Targeting Michael Grimm