News / USA

Republicans Wary as They Weigh US Immigration Reforms

U.S. House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) speaks at a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., Jan. 16, 2014.
U.S. House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) speaks at a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., Jan. 16, 2014.
Reuters
U.S. House of Representatives Republicans began two days of meetings on Thursday ready to discuss immigration reforms amid doubts among some lawmakers that they would be able to advance significant legislation in this mid-term election year.

Speaker John Boehner told reporters at the start of the closed-door conference that there would be discussions on immigration and on a series of Republican “principles” developed by leaders of the party, which controls the House.

The principles are believed to focus on ways to further secure the southwestern U.S. border against illegal entries and how to deal with the 11 million undocumented people already in the United States, while also devising ways to bring in more foreign farm workers and high-tech experts.

“I think it's time to deal with it. But how we deal with it is going to be critically important,” Boehner said as he prepared to hold what could turn into a contentious Thursday session.

Immigration reform, which President Barack Obama is pressing to achieve this year, is one of the key issues before Republicans at their retreat on the Choptank River near Cambridge, Maryland.

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. But such consensus was not yet forming around immigration reform legislation.

Asked whether Republicans would emerge with an alternative to a bipartisan immigration bill passed by the Senate in June, Boehner said only, “We're going to have that conversation today; outline the principles, have the discussion, we'll make some decisions.”

Some outspoken conservative Republicans pointedly disagreed with Boehner's desire to move forward on immigration legislation.

“It's not just the conservatives. I think a majority of the conference” think 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.

'Political football'

His remarks came just hours after Boehner stood before television cameras complaining that immigration reform had “become a political football. I think it's unfair.”

Contradicting Boehner on the high priority of immigration legislation, Labrador said, “I just don't think this is the time.”

He predicted that House Republicans will merely discuss their leaders' immigration principles and then “move on” to other items this year - such as an alternative to Obama's healthcare law.

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.

He explained that by June, many of the Republican primary elections will be over, suggesting that House Republicans might feel more comfortable tackling immigration then.

As November's elections come closer, partisanship could reach fever pitch, dooming chances of immigration legislation, some proponents fear.

Some Republicans appeared content to blame Obama for the failure of immigration reform proposals, as they complained that he cannot be trusted to fully enforce any legislation that Congress would enact. This made them skeptical of passing new reforms.

“If you pass a bill ...the president is just going to pick and choose what he enforces,” Representative Steve Scalise of Louisiana, the chairman of the Republican Study Committee, the largest group of conservatives in the House, told reporters.

Immediately after presidential and congressional elections in 2012 that saw Democrats win huge support among Latino voters at the expense of Republican candidates, Boehner urged his party to embrace the issue of immigration reform.

But pockets of his rambunctious Republican rank-and-file have resisted, with some saying they do not need to address immigration in order to hold onto their House majority in November. The chamber's 435 seats are up for election, along with one-third of the 100-member Senate that Democrats now control.

American high-tech companies and farmers complain that under the current U.S. immigration law enacted in 1986 they cannot get enough foreign workers to staff their operations.

Democrats and increasingly active Hispanic organizations are clamoring for measures to help the 11 million undocumented immigrants, many of whom have established roots in the United States, if they meet certain requirements.

Many Republicans argue that rewarding any of those 11 million people with a pathway to citizenship or even work permits is tantamount to amnesty for law-breakers that would encourage a new wave of illegal immigrants.

Boehner is seeking a compromise. Some Republican lawmakers and aides said he may propose legalizing some of the 11 million, after they learn English and pay taxes and penalties. Under the principles being discussed, undocumented residents who were brought into the United States as children by their parents might be put on a track to citizenship, the sources said.

You May Like

Tired of Waiting, South Africans Demand Change ‘Now’

With chronic poverty and lack of basic services largely fueling recent xenophobic attacks, many in Rainbow Nation say it’s time for government to act More

Challenges Ahead for China's Development Plans in Pakistan

Planned $46 billion in energy and infrastructure investments in Pakistan are aimed at transforming the country into a regional hub for trade and investment More

Audio 'Forbidden City' Revisits Little Known Era of Asian-American Entertainment

Little-known chapter of entertainment history captured in 80s documentary is revisited in new digitally remastered format and book More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populationsi
X
April 24, 2015 10:13 PM
A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populations

A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Data Servers Could Heat Private Homes

As every computer owner knows, when their machines run a complex program they get pretty hot. In fact, cooling the processors can be expensive, especially when you're dealing with huge banks of computer servers. But what if that energy could heat private homes? VOA’s George Putic reports that a Dutch energy firm aims to do just that.
Video

Video Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festival

Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video UN Confronts Threat of Young Radicals

The radicalization and recruitment of young people into Islamist extremist groups has become a growing challenge for governments worldwide. On Thursday, the U.N. Security Council heard from experts on the issue, which has become a potent threat to international peace and security. VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports.
Video

Video Growing Numbers of Turks Discover Armenian Ancestry

In a climate of improved tolerance, growing numbers of people in Turkey are discovering their grandmothers were Armenian. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians escaped the mass deportations and slaughter of the early 1900's by forced conversion to Islam. Or, Armenian children were taken in by Turkish families and assimilated. Now their stories are increasingly being heard. Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul that the revelations are viewed as an important step.
Video

Video Migrants Trek Through Western Balkans to Reach EU

Migrants from Africa and other places are finding different routes into the European Union in search of a better life. The Associated Press followed one clandestine group to document their trek through the western Balkans to Hungary. Zlatica Hoke reports that the migrants started using that route about four years ago. Since then, it has become the second-most popular path into Western Europe, after the option of sailing from North Africa to Italy.
Video

Video TIME Magazine Honors Activists, Pioneers Seen as Influential

TIME Magazine has released its list of celebrities, leaders and activists, whom it deems the world’s “most influential” in 2015. VOA's Ramon Taylor reports from New York.
Video

Video US Businesses See Cuba as New Frontier

The Obama administration's opening toward Cuba is giving U.S. companies hope they'll be able to do business in Cuba despite the continuation of the U.S. economic embargo against the communist nation. Some American companies have been able to export some products to Cuba, but the recent lifting of Cuba's terrorism designation could relax other restrictions. As VOA's Daniela Schrier reports, corporate heavy hitters are lining up to head across the Florida Straits - though experts urge caution.
Video

Video Kenya Launches Police Recruitment Drive After Terror Attacks

Kenya launched a major police recruitment drive this week as part of a large-scale effort to boost security following a recent spate of terror attacks. VOA’s Gabe Joselow reports that allegations of corruption in the process are raising old concerns about the integrity of Kenya’s security forces.
Video

Video Japan, China in Race for Asia High-Speed Rail Projects

A lucrative competition is underway in Asia for billions of dollars in high-speed rail projects. Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia Thailand and Vietnam are among the countries planning to move onto the fast track. They are negotiating with Japan and the upstart Chinese who are locked in a duel to revolutionize transportation across Asia. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok has details.
Video

Video Scientists: Mosquitoes Attracted By Our Genes

Some people always seem to get bitten by mosquitoes more than others. Now, scientists have proved that is really the case - and they say it’s all because of genes. It’s hoped the research might lead to new preventative treatments for diseases like malaria, as Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Bible Museum Coming to Washington DC

Washington is the center of American political power and also home to some of the nation’s most visited museums. A new one that will showcase the Bible has skeptics questioning the motives of its conservative Christian funders. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Armenia and Politics of Word 'Genocide'

A century ago this April, hundreds of thousands of Armenians of the Turkish Ottoman empire were deported and massacred, and their culture erased from their traditional lands. While broadly accepted by the U.N. and at least 20 countries as “genocide”, the United States and Turkey have resisted using that word to describe the atrocities that stretched from 1915 to 1923. But Armenians have never forgotten.
Video

Video Afghan First Lady Pledges No Roll Back on Women's Rights

Afghan First Lady Rula Ghani, named one of Time's 100 Most Influential, says women should take part in talks with Taliban. VOA's Rokhsar Azamee has more from Kabul.
Video

Video New Brain Mapping Techniques Could Ease Chronic Pain

From Boulder, Colorado, Shelley Schlender reports that new methods for mapping pain in the brain are providing validation for chronic pain and might someday guide better treatment.

VOA Blogs