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Dem Negotiator Laments House GOP Putting Down Its 'Harmonious Hymnal' on Immigration

“I have tremendous respect for the members of the bipartisan group who have been working with me to fix our broken immigration system,” Labrador said, but the bill’s framework “changed in a way that I can no longer support.”

Still, the opportunity remains for a deal. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), chairman of the House Budget Committee and the 2012 GOP vice presidential candidate, has expressed his support for the House Gang of Eight effort and is contributing to the initiative.

“My motivation -- and I think the vast majority of Republicans’ motivation -- is we believe in the rule of law,” Ryan said. “We believe that we need to have better security of our border. And we want to make sure that we have laws that are adhered and followed, and we believe in economic growth. And when we’ve got baby boomers retiring -- when we’ve got 10,000 people retiring every day, as they will be for 10 years coming -- we’re going to need people.”

Ryan said he believes that eventually the House and Senate will engage in a conference committee over immigration reform and emerge with legislation that addresses the problem.

“How big and broad it is -- the House will work its will and we’ll find out,” Ryan said. “The group that we have in the House I think has been extremely constructive. I think the border language that we’ve got, the rule-of-law language that we have would be a great improvement on the Senate product. So I think we’ll show, perhaps on some of these issues, better language from my perspective, from the Republicans’ perspective, on how to approach these issues.”

Ultimately, Ryan said, the legislation is not going to provide taxpayer-funded benefits for undocumented workers or those here on a probationary basis. Instead, the bill likely will make it  “so they can get affordable health insurance so that they don’t become a public charge.”

Ryan further argued that the proposal being debated does not constitute an amnesty for illegal immigrants already here.

“The idea is, a person gets a probationary status so that they come out of the shadows,” he said. “They get right with the law, and during that probationary status, they will have paid a fine. They will pay back taxes. We’ll make sure that they’re not a convicted felon. They’ll take civics classes. They’ll learn English. They’ll get right with the law. And then, after the probationary status expires, and after everybody who did everything right -- who was already in the line -- gets through the line, only until then -- when they’re put at the back of the line -- can they consider a status readjustment. This could take as long as 15 years if a person aspires to be a citizen with what we’re looking at in the House. That is not amnesty.”

Regardless, Gutierrez said as the 4th of July deadline favored by Democratic leaders to pass the bill approaches, “we get red meat politics for the barbecue and partisan fireworks on immigration” from Republicans.

“As a Democrat I should probably stand back and watch,” he said. “If you want to hang yourself on the immigration issue, who am I to stop you? But as an American I have to tell you what I really feel.”

“Come back to your senses,” he said.