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

UN Watchdog Urges Israel to Probe Possible Gaza War Crimes

More than 2,100 Palestinians, most of them civilians, were killed in a 51-day war in Gaza, along with 67 Israeli soldiers and six civilians in Israel More

New Kenyan 'Thin SIMs' Poised to Transform African Mobile Money

Equity's new technology is approved in African nation for one-year trial, though industry leader Safaricom says thin SIMs could lead to data theft and fraud More

Solar's Future Looks Brighter

New technology and dropping prices are contributing to a surge in solar power More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
October 25, 2014 4:21 PM
Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukraine

Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.

All About America

AppleAndroid