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

Ukraine Purges Interior Ministry Leadership With Pro-Russian Ties

Interior Minister Avakov says 91 people 'in positions of leadership' have been fired, including 8 generals found to have links to past pro-Moscow governments More

US Airlines Point to Additional Problems of any Ebola Travel Ban

Airline officials note that even under travel ban, they may not be able to determine where passenger set out from, as there are no direct flights from Liberia, Guinea or Sierra Leone More

Nigerian President to Seek Another Term

Goodluck Jonathan has faced intense criticism for failing to stop Boko Haram militants 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