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

Karzai's Legacy: Missed Opportunities?

Afghanistan's president leaves behind a much different nation than the one he inherited, yet his legacy from 13 years in power is getting mixed reviews More

Secret Service Chief Under Fire for White House Security Breach

Julia Pierson faces tough questions from lawmakers after recent intrusion at White House, says: 'It is clear that our security plan was not executed properly' More

Frustrated, Liberian Students Want Ebola Fight Role

Thousands have volunteered to go to counties, rural villages to talk to people in their language about deadly virus More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihadi
X
Mahi Ramakrishnan
September 30, 2014 2:16 PM
Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihad

Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Could US Have Done More to Stop Rise of Islamic State?

President Obama says airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Syria will likely continue for some time because, in his words, "there is a cancer that has grown for too long." So what if President Obama had acted sooner in Syria to arm more-moderate opponents of both the Islamic State and the Syrian government? VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Iran's Rouhani Skeptical on Syria Strikes

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani expressed skepticism Friday that U.S.-led airstrikes in Iraq and Syria could crush Islamic State militants. From New York, VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports the president was also hopeful that questions about Iran’s nuclear program could be resolved soon.
Video

Video US House Speaker: Congress Should Debate Authorization Against IS

As wave after wave of U.S. airstrikes target Islamic State militants, the speaker of the Republican-controlled House of Representatives says he would be willing to call Congress back into session to debate a formal, broad authorization for the use of military force. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports from Washington, where legislators left town 10 days ago for a seven-week recess.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Video

Video Ebola Robs Liberians of Chance to Say Good-Bye to Loved Ones

In Liberia, where Ebola has killed more than 1,500 people, authorities have worked hard to convince people to allow specialized burial teams to take away dead bodies. But these safety measures, while necessary, make it hard for people to say good bye to their loved ones. VOA's Anne Look reports on the tragedy from Liberia.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid