Republicans wary as they weigh immigration reforms

CAMBRIDGE, Maryland Thu Jan 30, 2014 6:30pm EST

U.S. House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) speaks at his news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington January 16, 2014. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas

U.S. House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) speaks at his news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington January 16, 2014.

Credit: Reuters/Yuri Gripas

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CAMBRIDGE, Maryland (Reuters) - Republican leaders in the U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday took their first step toward reforming an outdated immigration system as they floated a series of principles intended to guide a possible legislative effort this year.

According to a draft document obtained by Reuters that was intended to gauge support among the House's 232 Republicans for tackling immigration reform this year, some children who were brought illegally into the United States by their parents would be granted citizenship.

Meanwhile, some of the millions of adult undocumented residents would no longer have to worry about being deported and would be allowed to work in the United States if they cleared a series of hurdles.

Significantly, however, they would not win a pathway to citizenship that Democrats and immigration reform groups so badly want.

The move, spearheaded by House Speaker John Boehner, marked a significant shift within the Republican Party, whose members previously supported deporting the more than 11 million people who are living in the United States illegally.

The immigration reform ideas were being discussed in closed-door sessions House Republicans were holding this week at a resort on the eastern shore of the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland, about 85 miles outside Washington, D.C.

A congressional aide told Reuters that the initiative was sparking a heated discussion among House Republicans, some of whom strongly disagreed with the principles.

This set of ideas has a long way to go before being translated into actual legislation that could be debated on the House floor as an alternative to a bipartisan bill that passed the Democratic-controlled Senate last June. And there were no guarantees that it would even advance that far.

Reactions were varied to the broad principles House Republican leaders laid out in a one-page document.

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, speaking for the largest U.S. labor organization, blasted it as "a flimsy document that only serves to underscore the callous attitude Republicans have toward our nation's immigrants."

Trumka said that the establishment of a pathway to citizenship for the 11 million, which the House initiative denies except for children, was needed for any immigration bill that is enacted.

Another view came from a spokesman for the conservative group Heritage Action, Dan Holler, who said the language amounted to "amnesty" for some illegal immigrants.

Some prominent Democrats in Congress held out hope that Boehner has produced a catalyst for a deal.

"While these standards are certainly not everything we would agree with, they leave a real possibility that Democrats and Republicans, in both the House and Senate, can in some way come together and pass immigration reform," said Senator Charles Schumer of New York, who was a main sponsor of the Senate-passed bill.

Meanwhile, Representative Luis Gutierrez of Illinois, a Democrat and an outspoken proponent of immigration reform, said in a statement that the most important priority now was to "stop the massive increase in deportations." He said he would await detailed legislation from Republicans before knowing whether he could support it.

Before any illegal immigrants could obtain legal status or citizenship, further steps would have to be taken to secure the southwestern U.S. border and to clamp down on undocumented workers already in the country, according to the document.

One House source said that the principles being floated could be changed, depending on how rank-and-file House Republicans react.

RALLYING AROUND AN OBAMACARE ALTERNATIVE

Early indications were that House Republicans were coalescing around advancing new healthcare legislation that they will present as an alternative to "Obamacare," which suffered a troubled rollout in October.

As with immigration reform, Republicans presented a general set of healthcare principles that they said would "inform" the effort -- along with bills already introduced.

They emphasized affordability, access to care, and a choice of private options and doctors, but offered no specifics about how these goals would be accomplished.

But such consensus was not apparent on immigration reform. Some outspoken conservative Republicans pointedly disagreed with Boehner's desire to move forward on legislation.

"It's not just the conservatives. I think a majority of the conference" feel that now is "not the time to deal with the issue," Representative Raul Labrador of Idaho told Reuters in a telephone interview.

Labrador, who last year was part of a bipartisan group of lawmakers working on a comprehensive immigration deal, said some Republicans fear that getting bogged down in a contentious immigration debate this year could jeopardize the party's "great opportunity" to take control of the Senate away from Democrats in the November congressional elections.

Even allies of Boehner such as Representative Greg Walden of Oregon said that the first half of 2014 could go by without any action on the contentious immigration issue. "It's probably months out, I don't know," Walden said on the sidelines of the Republican conference.

(Additional reporting by David Lawder; Editing by David Storey, Mohammad Zargham and Andrew Hay)

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Comments (4)
AlkalineState wrote:
Big business expects the cheap labor.

Tea Party hates the word amnesty. And not too fond of brown people either.

Decisions, decisions :)

Jan 30, 2014 4:17pm EST  --  Report as abuse
Raelyn wrote:
Watched Paul Ryan interview answer a question on immigration. Nothing new from Republicans, especially their insistence on always posing in front of several American flags when being interviewed.
I assume this is supposed to make them appear to be patriotic.

Jan 30, 2014 4:25pm EST  --  Report as abuse
now23861221 wrote:
Jan 30.

U.S border patrol agent sources exclaimed their frustration relating to both political parties being pressed by special interests, that drug cartels and human traffickers are wasting no time in prospering from smuggling thousands of illegal aliens across the Southern border.
Federal agents are aware of the massive problem, as they see large numbers of footprints the New River, which meanders from Mexico onto our soil. Officials announced that traffickers are transporting whole families, including young children through open areas of the border regions and many reporting themselves to the border agents, completely without fear of being deported, certainly aware of the controversial immigration amnesty being tracked through Congress.
The federal authorities have been directed by the Obama administration not to enforce the current laws, and therefore can do little to stop this current rush for the Southern border. Illegal persons are appearing in ever larger numbers to discourage our protectors, as the political parties gathering a plan to approve some sort of amnesty. For the men and women mobilized to guard our perilous, unsafe 2,000 mile border with Mexico.

An anonymous Department of Homeland Security official stated, “Right now, entire families — groups — show up at the border and turn themselves in,” said who works along the Arizona border with Mexico. “It’s only getting worse. They bring their children with them and they know they will not be turned back — the majorities are given a free ride into the U.S. This is out of control and passing immigration reform without enforcing current laws will make it worse, not better.”

Another Texas Border officer who was promised anonymity in his commentary,” Human smugglers are using the “promise of immigration reform” among those desperate to immigrate to the U.S. from overseas. Many illegal migrant workers “are trying to find a way into the United States before the amnesty and many with their offspring,” Children become leverage for the parents, because under the “Birthright Citizenship Law” slipped into America has access to food stamps, cash payments, schooling and of course healthcare—and taxpayers are burdened with these costs, which averages into the hundred of billions of dollars. Of course the parents, a pregnant Mother who arrives by plane or crosses the border can claim dollars, prenatal and hospital treatment—all for free. That’s how millions of illegal aliens live, with the many children supplementing their income and no possibility of being deported—especially under the Obama presidential signature.
It’s not just federal law enforcement officials crying foul over a lack of government enforcement. A court order issued Dec. 13 by U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanon in Texas accused the U.S. government of aiding and abetting human traffickers from El Salvador and Mexico when federal officers helped accomplish the smuggler’s mission by delivering a child they detained at the border to her illegal immigrant mother in Virginia.
“This court is quite concerned with the apparent policy of the Department of Homeland Security of completing the criminal mission of individuals who are violating border security of the United States,” Hanen said in his order. “The DHS is rewarding criminal conduct instead of enforcing current laws … More troubling, the DHS is encouraging parents to seriously jeopardize the safety of their children … The DHS should enforce the laws of the United States — not break them.”
House Republicans are expected to summarize an outline detailing their position on immigration reform and what to do with the estimated more than 12 million people living in the country illegally during their three-day retreat this week.
The provisions are expected to include stronger border security laws, “but we don’t enforce current laws and in fact we’re asked to break those laws when our ICE officers are kept from doing their jobs,” Chris Crane, president of the National ICE Council, the union that represents ICE officers stated to news reporters.
“Why pass new ones if we’re not enforcing the current laws?” he added.
The union, which represents more than 7,500 officers and support staff, believes a reform bill will only lead to an increase in illegal immigration, fraud and a growing entitlement system that bleeds tax payer dollars.
A Border Patrol agent who works along the Texas border observed: “If we don’t follow the rules now, what makes anyone think we’re going to follow them after a new amnesty is passed?”
Take into consideration some of our lax laws; why isn’t it a FELONY for entering the United States without permission; Its utter garbage. Enter Mexico or many other countries and you’re in deep trouble. Try entering a country and collecting benefits; it’s disgusting the Birthright Citizen Law is not amended, so only the children of U.S. citizens can claim public assistance. IT SEEMS TO ME IT’S ALL INTENTIONAL?
Its the same with not sealing Southwest border? The state of Israel built their own border fence and successfully stopped smuggling and terrorists. HAVE YOU EVER HAD THAT FEELING IT’S ALL INTENTIONAL? THROW ALL THE BUMS OUT WHO VOTE FOR AMNESTY FOR ILLEGAL ALIENS. STOP THE BENEFITS, STOP ANY PATH TO CITIZENSHIP.

Numbersusa, a grassroots organization, sees the threat of overpopulation and the socialist radical open border groups ignores it. Now California the epicenter of the illegal alien invasion are about to suffer water shortages? America is in peril! If Obama and the Democrats get their way, drug cartels, human traffickers and dangerous criminals will flow freely through our borders and fill our backyards. Obama cannot be trusted. He has no intention of securing our borders. He is a fraud and a liar and his amnesty plan is a danger to national security. Democrats are going to try and pass an amnesty bill while no one’s looking! Fax for FREE Congress – Tell them to secure the borders first! petitions.conservativeactionalerts.com. . Use your voice and crash the switchboard in Washington at (202) 224-3121. Enough is enough. Obama has defied and despoiled the Constitution, bypassed Congress, gone against the laws of this country and the ardent will of the people. The only true Conservatives who will enforce immigration are the “rending-away” Peoples TEA PARTY dot org. President Barack Obama is pushing for amnesty even though the (CBO) Congressional Budget Office has determined it will devastate the wages of working class people.

Jan 30, 2014 4:30pm EST  --  Report as abuse
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