News / USA

    Obama Pushes House Republicans on Immigration

    Rep. Ruben Hinojosa, speaks to reporters outside the White House, July 10, 2013, following a meeting between President Barack Obama and members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.
    Rep. Ruben Hinojosa, speaks to reporters outside the White House, July 10, 2013, following a meeting between President Barack Obama and members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.
    Reuters
    President Barack Obama jumped into the immigration debate on Wednesday, releasing a report touting economic benefits from reforms and meeting with Hispanic lawmakers, as House of Representatives Republicans gathered to try to craft their response.
     
    The release of the White House report signaled a new outspokenness by Obama, who made immigration a top legislative priority but stayed on the sidelines of the debate that raged in the Senate in May and June. The report said passing reforms would grow the economy by 3.3 percent by 2023 and reduce the deficit by almost $850 billion over 20 years.
     
    Obama also was scheduled to meet with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus as he launches an offensive to pressure hesitant Republicans in the House of Representatives to act on comprehensive immigration legislation this year.
     
    Meanwhile, House Speaker John Boehner invited all 233 of his fellow House Republicans in his chamber to a two-hour meeting on Wednesday to discuss the bipartisan Senate bill that would give legal status to around 11 million undocumented residents and eventually allow them to apply for U.S. citizenship.
     
    Boehner knows he will have a tough time convincing conservatives that the Senate approach is anything but amnesty for people who have broken the law after entering the United States illegally or overstaying their visas.
     
    According to one House aide, Republican leaders will listen to ideas from members on how to proceed. The main question for now, the aide said, was whether any narrow immigration bill should be put to a vote by the full House before the August recess, when lawmakers will be home, facing their constituents.
     
    Previewing Wednesday's meeting, Boehner told reporters on Tuesday that he would pursue a “step-by-step approach” to immigration and “the first big step is you have to have a serious border security” plan.
     
    The comprehensive Senate-passed bill contained tough security measures with $46 billion in spending over 10 years to place 20,000 more agents at the U.S. border with Mexico and buy high-tech surveillance equipment.
     
    Nevertheless, only 14 of the Senate's 46 Republicans voted for the bill and many House Republicans complain that the 11 million illegal residents would be mainstreamed into American society before the southwestern border is fully secured.
     
    Last November's presidential election, in which Obama captured more than 70 percent of the growing Hispanic vote, was a wake-up call to Republican leaders that their party must do more to appeal to minorities.
     
    Former President George W. Bush, who failed to pass a comprehensive immigration bill when he was in office, on Wednesday said that he hoped there would be a “positive resolution” to Congress's immigration debate.
     
    Speaking in Dallas at a naturalization ceremony hosted by The Bush Center, the two-term Republican president did not endorse any specific bill, but said, “We have a problem. The laws governing the immigration system aren't working ... the system is broken.”

    House difficulties
     
    The call for comprehensive reform resonates with some Republican senators, who have to run in statewide elections, and with some prospective Republican presidential candidates.
     
    But it is much less of an incentive for House Republicans, many of whom fear conservative Tea Party challenges if they back a pathway to citizenship for the 11 million, a core demand of Obama and his fellow Democrats.
     
    According to a recent study by the nonpartisan Cook Political Report, which tracks congressional races, only 24 of the 234 House Republicans represent districts that are more than 25 percent Hispanic.
     
    The study found that 148 of the Republican-held districts are less than 10 percent Hispanic, and another 62 are between 10 percent to 25 percent Hispanic.
     
    David Wasserman, who conducted the Cook study, said most House Republicans believe they could defeat a Democratic challenger in the general election.
     
    “But they don't know if they will face a Republican primary challenge if they vote for an immigration bill backed by the president,” he said.
     
    Republican Representative Steve Scalise of Louisiana, who heads a large group of House conservatives, told reporters: “In the House, we plan on addressing border security front and center. It has got to be the main component of anything that is done on immigration.”
     
    The House Homeland Security Committee has approved a border security bill that could be considered as a stand-alone immigration measure on the House floor.
     
    It would direct the Department of Homeland Security to develop and implement a plan to control the entire southwestern  border within five years and be able to catch or turn back 90 percent of illegal entries.
     
    Meanwhile, the House Judiciary Committee has produced four targeted bills, which also could see action in the House. They include a tough measure aimed at finding and punishing those living in the United States illegally and another to help U.S. high-tech firms hire more skilled labor from abroad.
     
    For many House Republicans, support for a comprehensive bill with the pathway to citizenship is tepid at best.
     
    Passing such legislation is “not urgent,” said Representative James Lankford of Oklahoma, a member of the House Republican leadership team.
     
    “If we run out of time at the end of the year, I don't think we push it. This is a problem that has festered for decades,” he added.
     
    Even with such ambivalence, House Republican leaders still leave open the door to crafting some sort of proposal that would end the deportation threat for many of the 11 million, allowing them to openly seek work in the United States and potentially become American citizens, much like the Senate bill.
     
    Boehner, asked about a bipartisan House plan, not yet unveiled, that would establish a 15-year pathway to citizenship, said, “Frankly, I think that they have done a lot of good work.”

    You May Like

    Turkey, US Splits Deepen Over Support for Kurdish Militants

    Ankara summons American ambassador to protest remarks by State Department spokesman who said Washington does not consider Syria's Kurdish Democracy Union Party (PYD) a terrorist organization

    Obama Seeking $19 Billion for National Cybersecurity

    Move, touted as attempt to build broad, cohesive federal response to cyberthreats, calls for increase in cybersecurity spending across all government agencies

    Video Foreign Policy Weighs Heavy for Some US Voters

    VOA talks to protesters in Manchester, New Hampshire, who sound off on foreign policy issues such as the Guantanamo Bay prison, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the wars in Iraq, Syria and Yemen

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Valentine's Day Stinks for Lebanese Clownsi
    X
    February 09, 2016 8:04 PM
    This weekend, on Valentine's Day in Lebanon, love is not the only thing in the air. More than half a year after the country's trash crisis began, the stink of uncollected garbage remains on the streets. Step forward "Clown Me In," a group of clowns who use their skills for activism. Before the most romantic day of the year the clowns have released their unusual take on love in Lebanon -- in a bid to keep the pressure up and get the trash off the streets. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Valentine's Day Stinks for Lebanese Clowns

    This weekend, on Valentine's Day in Lebanon, love is not the only thing in the air. More than half a year after the country's trash crisis began, the stink of uncollected garbage remains on the streets. Step forward "Clown Me In," a group of clowns who use their skills for activism. Before the most romantic day of the year the clowns have released their unusual take on love in Lebanon -- in a bid to keep the pressure up and get the trash off the streets. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Rocky Year Ahead for Nigeria Amid Oil Price Crash

    The global fall in the price of oil has rattled the economies of many petroleum exporters, and Africa’s oil king Nigeria is no exception. As Chris Stein reports from Lagos, analysts are predicting a rough year ahead for the continent’s top producer of crude.
    Video

    Video Foreign Policy Weighs Heavy for Some US Voters

    VOA talks to protesters in Manchester, New Hampshire who sound off on foreign policy issues such as the Guantanamo Bay Prison, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Middle East Affairs and national security.
    Video

    Video 'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenya

    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video New Hampshire Voters Are Independent, Mindful of History

    Once every four years, the northeastern state of New Hampshire becomes the center of the U.S. political universe with its first-in-the-nation presidential primary. What's unusual about New Hampshire is how seriously the voters take their role and the responsibility of being among the first to weigh in on the candidates.
    Video

    Video Chocolate Lovers Get a Sweet History Lesson

    Observed in many countries around the world, Valentine’s Day is sometimes celebrated with chocolate festivals. But at a festival near Washington, the visitors experience a bit more than a sugar rush. They go on a sweet journey through history. VOA’s June Soh takes us to the festival.
    Video

    Video 'Smart' Bandages Could Heal Wounds More Quickly

    Simple bandages are usually seen as the first line of attack in healing small to moderate wounds and burns. But scientists say new synthetic materials with embedded microsensors could turn bandages into a much more valuable tool for emergency physicians. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Bhutanese Refugees in New Hampshire Closely Watching Primary Election

    They fled their country and lived in refugee camps in neighboring Nepal for decades before being resettled in the northeastern U.S. state of New Hampshire -- now the focus of the U.S. presidential contest. VOA correspondent Aru Pande spoke with members of the Bhutanese community, including new American citizens, about the campaign and the strong anti-immigrant rhetoric of some of the candidates.
    Video

    Video Researchers Use 3-D Printer to Produce Transplantable Body Parts

    Human organ transplants have become fairly common around the world in the past few decades. Researchers at various universities are coordinating their efforts to find solutions -- including teams at the University of Pennsylvania and Rice University in Houston that are experimenting with a 3-D printer -- to make blood vessels and other structures for implant. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, they are also using these artificial body parts to seek ways of defeating cancerous tumors.
    Video

    Video Helping the Blind 'See' Great Art

    There are 285 million blind and visually impaired people in the world who are unable to enjoy visual art at a museum. One New York photographer is trying to fix this situation by making tangible copies of the world’s masterpieces. VOA correspondent Victoria Kupchinetsky was there as visually impaired people got a feel for great art. Joy Wagner narrates her report.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.
    Video

    Video Genius Lets World Share Its Knowledge

    Inspired by crowdsourcing companies like Wikipedia, Genius allows anyone to edit anything on the web, using its web annotation tool
    Video

    Video In Philippines, Mixed Feelings About Greater US Military Presence

    In the Philippines, some who will be directly affected by a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for more United States troop visits are having mixed reactions.  The increased rotations come at a time when the Philippines is trying to build up its military in the face of growing maritime assertiveness from China.  From Bahile, Palawan on the coast of the South China Sea, Simone Orendain has this story.