House lawmakers reach tentative deal to revamp immigration

WASHINGTON Fri May 17, 2013 2:04am EDT

House Speaker John Boehner holds a news conference at the U.S. Capitol in Washington March 21, 2013. REUTERS/Gary Cameron

House Speaker John Boehner holds a news conference at the U.S. Capitol in Washington March 21, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Gary Cameron

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Prospects for passage of a major immigration bill improved on Thursday when a bipartisan group of lawmakers in the House of Representatives declared they had reached a tentative deal, resolving disputes that had threatened to torpedo negotiations.

The breakthrough came at the end of a two-hour private meeting of seven Republican and Democratic negotiators. The eighth negotiator in this so-called House Gang of Eight was unavailable after undergoing surgery on Wednesday.

The final sticking point, according to congressional sources, was over whether illegal immigrants now in the United States who gain legal status under the bill could participate in the new healthcare law known as "Obamacare," which Republicans want to repeal.

None of the negotiators would comment on how the matter was resolved. Nor would they provide other details of the deal.

Even with Thursday's breakthrough, the drive to enact a comprehensive immigration bill, which is President Barack Obama's top legislative priority, faces a long, difficult road in Congress.

The agreement still must be drafted into legislation for review by the 435 members of the House. Then it faces a potentially tough battle in the House Judiciary Committee, where several conservative Republicans have been dead-set against a comprehensive bill. Instead, they mostly want to pass tougher border security measures and allow U.S. companies to get better access to foreign high-tech workers.

Any proposal to provide a path to citizenship for 11 million people now in the United States illegally, which is part of a Senate bill, is certain to draw fierce opposition from some Republican quarters.

Furthermore, the House bill will not fully conform to the measure winding its way through the Democratic-controlled Senate.


"There are going to be a lot of differences in a lot of areas" between the House and Senate bills, said Republican Representative Mario Diaz-Balart of Florida, one of the House negotiators.

The tentative deal, he added, is "the first step of a difficult process. But it's a very important step."

Diaz-Balart would not say whether the deal includes an agreement to leave some difficult issues unresolved for now.

Besides healthcare questions, the bipartisan group had been squabbling over the future flow of foreigners streaming into the United States for temporary workers.

"We have essentially come to an agreement on all the major points," Democratic Representative John Yarmuth of Kentucky told reporters after closed-door meeting broke up. He added that some "loose ends" still had to be worked out.

The bipartisan group has been attempting to introduce an immigration bill for years. But disputes over border security, work visa numbers and healthcare provisions had grown to the point that there were fears some lawmakers might be on the verge of dropping out of the long negotiations.

The group had also been arguing over the "triggers" that would define when additional border security steps under the legislation would be sufficient to start legalizing some of the 11 million unauthorized foreigners, sources said.

There was also disagreement over several other policy issues central to an immigration bill, including the number of foreign high-tech workers who would be allowed in, as well as low-skilled construction and service industry laborers.

The Senate Judiciary Committee is in the midst of debating that chamber's bipartisan bill, with the goal of bringing a bill before the full Senate next month.

That panel is struggling with the work visa program in the bill and is under intense pressure from technology companies to make it easier to hire foreign workers.

One of the members of the House group, Republican John Carter, told reporters on Thursday that there was no way the Senate bill would pass the Republican-controlled House.

Immediately following the November 6 elections, in which Hispanic voters roundly rejected Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, House Speaker John Boehner called on his party to pivot on immigration.

After years of blocking moves to put the 11 million on a pathway to citizenship that many conservatives call "amnesty," Boehner, the top elected U.S. Republican, urged his party to work for a major revamp of immigration laws.

Boehner's call for action angered many of his most conservative rank-and-file Republican House members, as well as some conservative interest groups. As a result, it is unclear how Boehner will navigate between his desire to accomplish an immigration bill and resistance from many fellow Republicans.

Earlier on Thursday, before the bipartisan deal, Boehner expressed concerns about the lack of progress in the House so far. He added, "I continue to believe that the House ... needs to work its will. How we get there, we're still dealing with it."

(Additional reporting by Caren Bohan; Editing by Fred Barbash, Cynthia Osterman and Eric Walsh)

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Comments (21)
AdamSmith wrote:
The Congressmen are stabbing the American middle class in the back. They have sold their souls to big money interests who profit from immigration.

Why does America even have a military?

America has abandoned its own duty to maintain its own borders at its airports.

Why have a military when every day thousands of people from India, China, and many other countries fly right into our main airports, take American jobs in the high-tech sector?

Rarely mentioned in the press is the fact that the number of foreigners allowed to immigrate LEGALLY into the US this year is approximately 1.2 million foreigners. It now averages over 1.2 million per year.

Immigration is driving down wage rates, destroying the American middle class.

Immigration over the past 12 years caused more destruction of the American middle class than ten nuclear bombs.

The militaries of other nations in the world protect their borders and airports. Their borders mean something. The most advanced countries, Germany, Japan, Israel, China, France, South Korea, Switzerland – they all guard their borders and airports carefully. They all prohibit immigration. Only America has been so thoroughly corrupted by big money. Only America is so utterly defenseless.

All other nations COMBINED, do not allow the levels of immigration that America is experiencing. It is the largest movement of human beings in the history of the world.

Millions of foreigners, fully LOYAL to their home countries, have been coming to America as students: Chinese, Indians, Mexicans, Brazilians, Pakistanis, Russians, Koreans, Iraqis, Iranians and other foreigners coming to sit in American class rooms. They then take that knowledge back to their home countries and work for companies or militaries competing against America.

They are arriving by the thousands every day, many under H1B visas or L1 visa. It is asymmetric warfare and America is utterly defenseless.

Why does America even have a military? We are being literally invaded by immigration, and we do nothing.

May 16, 2013 8:47pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
Samrch wrote:
Pick a time of high unemployment to flood the nation with more workers. If it was a time of low unemployment it would make sense. If rich want highly educated workers, they should support free public education and things to kill dumb is beautiful culture, and not support any clergy who down grade logic, mathematics or science in their schools.

May 16, 2013 9:11pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
CountryPride wrote:
We in America are already the most generous in the world with our immigration laws allowing millions a year to come to this country and have been doing that for many years now. The question is has immigration benefited America and it’s citizens? NO, our country and society is much worse off today than was years ago. The failed experiment of multiculturalism is dead, it was European immigration that made America great, not immigration in general and especially not 3rd world immigration. Their have been 7 mass amnesties since 1986 and all promised the same thing and all failed. This one will drive the nail in the coffin of any hope of not becoming a 3rd world garbage can. Immigration laws are supposed to benefit citizens of a country not reward invading foreign criminals. If an American was overstaying a visa or illegally entered a country, he would be made to round up his family, including his children even if they were born their and made to go back together to their home country. But somehow we are made to believe this can’t happen and is unreasonable to any illegal in America so we should reward them with citizenship and full access to the American taxpayers wallet which they already have partial access to. This is treason plain and simple, spread the word to do what it takes to put and end to these insane ideas that will destroy our country!

May 16, 2013 9:24pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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