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

    New EU Asylum Rules Could Boost Rightists

    New regulations will seek to correct EU failures in dealing with migrant crisis, most notably inability to get member states to absorb a total of 160,000 refugees

    More Political Turmoil Likely in Iraq as Iran Waits in the Wings

    Analysts warn that Tehran, even though it may not be engineering the Sadrist protests in Baghdad, is seeking to leverage its influence on its neighbor

    Goodbye Ketchup, Hello Sriracha!

    How immigrants are triggering a great transformation in American cuisine

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Tensions Rising Ahead of South China Sea Rulingi
    X
    May 03, 2016 5:16 PM
    As the Philippines awaits an international arbitration ruling on a challenge to China's claims to nearly all of the South China Sea, it is already becoming clear that regardless of which way the decision goes, the dispute is intensifying. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
    Video

    Video Tensions Rising Ahead of South China Sea Ruling

    As the Philippines awaits an international arbitration ruling on a challenge to China's claims to nearly all of the South China Sea, it is already becoming clear that regardless of which way the decision goes, the dispute is intensifying. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
    Video

    Video Painting Captures President Lincoln Assassination Aftermath

    A newly restored painting captures the moments following President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination in 1865. It was recently unveiled at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, where America’s 16th president was shot. It is the only known painting by an eyewitness that captures the horror of that fateful night. VOA’s Julie Taboh tells us more about the painting and what it took to restore it to its original condition.
    Video

    Video Elephant Summit Results in $5M in Pledges, Presidential Support

    Attended and supported by three African presidents, a three-day anti-poaching summit has concluded in Kenya, resulting in $5 million in pledges and a united message to the world that elephants are worth more alive than dead. The summit culminated at the Nairobi National Park with the largest ivory burn in history. VOA’s Jill Craig attended the summit and has this report about the outcomes.
    Video

    Video Displaced By War, Syrian Artist Finds Inspiration Abroad

    Saudi-born Syrian painter Mohammad Zaza is among the millions who fled their home for an uncertain future after Syria's civil war broke out. Since fleeing Syria, Zaza has lived in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and now Turkey where his latest exhibition, “Earth is Blue like an Orange,” opened in Istanbul. He spoke with VOA about how being displaced by the Syrian civil war has affected the country's artists.
    Video

    Video Ethiopia’s Drought Takes Toll on Children

    Ethiopia is dealing with its worst drought in decades, thanks to El Nino weather patterns. An estimated 10 million people urgently need food aid. Six million of them are children, whose development may be compromised without sufficient help, Marthe van der Wolf reports for VOA from the Metahara district.
    Video

    Video Little Havana - a Slice of Cuban Culture in Florida

    Hispanic culture permeates everything in Miami’s Little Havana area: elderly men playing dominoes as they discuss politics, cigar rollers deep at work, or Cuban exiles talking with presidential candidates at a Cuban coffee window. With the recent rapprochement between Cuba and United States, one can only expect stronger ties between South Florida and Cuba.
    Video

    Video California Republicans Weigh Presidential Choices Amid Protests

    Republican presidential candidates have been wooing local party leaders in California, a state that could be decisive in selecting the party's nominee for U.S. president. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports delegates to the California party convention have been evaluating choices, while front-runner Donald Trump drew hundreds of raucous protesters Friday.
    Video

    Video Kurdish Football Team Helps War-Torn City Cope

    With the conflict still raging across much of Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, between the rebel PKK and the Turkish state, many Kurds are trying to escape the turmoil by focusing on the success of their football team Amedspor in Diyarbakir. The club is increasingly becoming a symbol for Kurds, not only in Diyarbakir but beyond. Dorian Jones reports from southeast Turkey.
    Video

    Video ‘The Lights of Africa’ - Through the Eyes of 54 Artists

    An exhibition bringing together the work of 54 African artists, one from each country, is touring the continent after debuting at COP21 in Paris. Called "Lumières d'Afrique," the show centers on access to electricity and, more figuratively, ideas that enlighten. Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, the exhibition's first stop.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora