WASHINGTON – House Republicans are facing increased pressure from the White House and members of the Senate to act on immigration reform but it appears leadership doesn’t intend to address the issue any time soon.
Lawmakers who attended a meeting of the GOP caucus last week said leadership is still formulating its answer to the nation’s immigration problem and probably won’t have any defined plan until after the August recess. It’s possible, however, that immigration-related measures that already have passed the House Judiciary Committee dealing with enforcement and border security could be placed on the agenda sooner rather than later.
“My job is to do everything I can to facilitate a process for solving this problem,” said House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio). “And that’s what I’m going to continue to do.”
Boehner already has made clear that he doesn’t intend to stage a vote on the “flawed legislation rushed through the Senate” and won’t hold a vote on any bill that doesn’t carry the support of the chamber’s GOP lawmakers.
In a statement, Boehner, House Republican Leader Eric Cantor, and several pre-eminent officials in the Republican caucus expressed their intention to take a “step-by-step, common-sense approach to fixing what has long been a broken system.” The group added that the public doesn’t trust the Democrats or support “a single, massive, Obamacare-like bill.”
President Obama, they said, “has also demonstrated he is willing to unilaterally delay or ignore significant portions of laws he himself has signed, raising concerns among Americans that this administration cannot be trusted to deliver on its promises to secure the border and enforce laws as part of a single, massive bill like the one passed by the Senate.”
For its part, the White House, which remained relatively quiet during the intense negotiations that resulted in the Senate immigration bill, is slowly building up pressure in an effort to force the House to take action.
Obama Press Secretary Jay Carney said the White House will “continue to work with other lawmakers in the House and the Senate as this issue continues to develop.”
“The president will engage, as he has all along, and he will make clear his support for and his insistence upon comprehensive immigration reform because it’s the right thing for our economy and it’s the right thing for our people,” Carney said. “How that manifests itself, what events he may hold, we’ll have to see, because we’re going to make those judgments as this issue ripens over the next weeks and months.”
Asked about the expectation that the House won’t address the issue until after the August recess, Carney responded, “We have said all along that the Congress should address this deliberately but quickly.”
“There has been obviously a great amount of time spent over the years, certainly since the middle of the last decade, on this issue,” he said. “A lot of work has been done. A lot of work was done to produce the bipartisan Senate bill, and now work is being done in the House. So we believe that the House can and should act quickly. We don’t control the House so we obviously have to work with the House, as the Senate does, as they move through this issue.”
The Senate bill, the first major immigration legislation addressed by the upper chamber since 1986, passed in a bipartisan vote of 68-32. It offers illegal immigrants who have resided in the U.S. since Dec. 13, 2011, an opportunity to seek provisional legal status that allows them to work but renders them ineligible for federal benefits. They must pay a penalty, taxes and a processing fee and can only apply for permanent status after 10 years. A new visa program for low-skilled workers would also be developed.
It also hikes border patrol ranks by 20,000 – almost doubling the contingent at a cost of $30 billion — and adds 350 miles of border fencing. It spends $4.5 billion on technical innovations intended to provide security personnel with full situational awareness along the southern border. And it implements an entry-exit visa program to keep tabs on visitors who overextend their stay as well as the so-called e-verify program to make employers aware of a potential worker’s immigration status.
The House is unlikely to pass anything akin to the Senate measure. A significant segment of the controlling Republican caucus opposes any provision that they maintain provides amnesty to the estimated undocumented workers who already reside within the nation’s borders. And they don’t feel the border security steps contained in the Senate bill are sufficient.