Rep. Kevin McCarthy said in a report published Thursday that immigration reform advocates are hurting their own cause by targeting him in an aggressive and uncomfortably personal campaign.
McCarthy, R-Bakersfield, told the Wall Street Journal that pro-reform activists are "less likely to have my ear" if they continue their tactics, which have included loud demonstrations at his office on Empire Drive, and one in which his office lobby was occupied overnight. A July event featured a mask of his face on a dinosaur costume warning of the Republican Party's extinction.
"I can't go anywhere in the community without being protested," the newspaper quoted him as saying in an interview. "I don't see how that is productive."
The story appeared on page 4 of the Journal's front section under the headline "Immigration-Bill Tactics Backfire."
Neither McCarthy, the third-ranking Republican in the House and the majority whip, nor a top local aide responded to requests for comment Thursday.
A local activist who has participated in the campaign called the congressman's published comments "disingenuous," saying McCarthy was unsympathetic toward local immigrants long before the campaign began.
"The man has been completely against immigration reform for ... the last five years when he began to play a national, public role," said Gonzalo Santos, a Cal State Bakersfield sociology professor and member of the pro-reform Kern Coalition for Citizenship.
But immigration reform opponent Joe Guzzardi asserted that recent demonstrations have been counterproductive.
"It gets to a point where certainly McCarthy knows what their feelings are, what their opinions are and what the emotions are behind it," said Guzzardi, national media director for the Santa Barbara-based Californians for Population Stabilization, which has taken out local ads calling on McCarthy to resist giving immigrants a path to citizenship.
Since July, labor and immigrant advocacy groups, including United Farm Workers, have kept pressure on McCarthy to push for a House vote on a comprehensive immigration reform measure the U.S. Senate passed in June. The bill, which is supported by California farm groups dealing with a worker shortage, includes a pathway to citizenship for an estimated 11 million people in the country without legal authorization.
McCarthy, who has generally avoided the marches and other demonstrations, has issued written statements that although the nation's immigration system is "broken," it should be addressed in a step-by-step process beginning with efforts to secure the border.