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

At Khmer Rouge Court, Long-Awaited Verdict Approaches

First phase of trial, which is coming to an end, has focused on forced exodus of Phnom Penh in 1975 - and now many are hopeful justice will be served More

Video When Fighting Eases, Gazans Line Up at Bakeries

When there is a lull in the conflict, residents who have been hunkered down in their apartments rush out to stock up on food and other necessities More

Video Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukraine

Downing of Malaysian airliner, allegations of cross-border shelling move information war in war-torn country to a new level More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
July 31, 2014 8:13 PM
The downing of the Malaysian airliner two weeks ago, and allegations that Russians are shelling Ukrainian troops across the border, have moved the information war swirling around the Ukrainian conflict to a new level. VOA's Al Pessin reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukraine

The downing of the Malaysian airliner two weeks ago, and allegations that Russians are shelling Ukrainian troops across the border, have moved the information war swirling around the Ukrainian conflict to a new level. VOA's Al Pessin reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video When Fighting Eases, Gazans Line Up at Bakeries

When there is a lull in the conflict in Gaza, residents who have been hunkered down in their apartments rush out to stock up on food and other necessities. Probably the most important destination is the local bakery. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Gaza City.
Video

Video US-Funded Program Offers Honduran Children Alternative to Illegal Immigration

President Obama and Central American leaders recently agreed to come up with a plan to address poverty and crime in the region that is fueling the surge of young migrants trying to illegally enter the United States. VOA’s Brian Padden looks at one such program in Honduras - funded in part by the United States - which gives street kids not only food and safety but a chance for a better life without, crossing the border.
Video

Video 'Fab Lab' Igniting Revolution in Kenya

The University of Nairobi’s Science and Technology Park is banking on 3-D prototyping to spark a manufacturing revolution in the country. Lenny Ruvaga has more for from Nairobi's so-called “FabLab” for VOA.
Video

Video Gazans in Shelled School Sought Shelter

Israel's air and ground assault against Hamas-led fighters in Gaza has forced many Palestinians to flee their homes, seeking safety. But safe places are hard to find, as VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jabaliya.
Video

Video Rapid Spread of Ebola in West Africa Prompts Global Alert

Across West Africa, health officials are struggling to keep up with what the World Health Organization describes as the worst ebola outbreak on record. The virus has killed hundreds of people this year. U.S. President Barack Obama and other world leaders are watching the developments closely as they weigh what actions, if any, are needed to help contain the disease.
Video

Video Michelle Obama: Young Africans Need to Embrace Women's Rights

U.S. first lady Michelle Obama urged some of Africa's best and brightest to advocate for women's rights in their home countries. As VOA's Pam Dockins explains, Obama spoke to some 500 participants of the Young African Leaders Initiative, a six-week U.S.-based training and development program.
Video

Video Immigrant Influx on Texas Border Heats Up Political Debate

Immigrants from Central America continue to cross the U.S.-Mexico border in south Texas, seeking asylum in the United States, as officials grapple with ways to deal with the problem and provide shelter for thousands of minors among the illegal border crossers. As VOA's Greg Flakus reports from Houston, the issue is complicated by internal U.S. politics and U.S. relations with the troubled nations that immigrants are fleeing.
Video

Video Study: Latino Students Most Segregated in California

Even though legal school segregation ended in the United States 60 years ago, one study finds segregation still occurs in the U.S. based on income and race. The University of California Los Angeles Civil Rights Project finds that students in California are more segregated by race than ever before, especially Latinos. Elizabeth Lee reports for VOA from Los Angeles.

AppleAndroid