House Majority Leader John A. Boehner refused yesterday to rule out compromising with the Senate to expand the House border security bill to include a guest-worker program or provisions that opponents call “amnesty.”
“Let’s wait and see what the Senate can produce,” he told reporters yesterday when asked whether House Republicans would reject the Senate Judiciary Committee’s proposal to allow the estimated 12 million illegal aliens now in the U.S. to seek citizenship after paying a fine.
Since Monday’s Judiciary vote, the Senate appears headed toward approving immigration legislation that strengthens border security some while creating a new guest-worker program and providing a path to U.S. citizenship for illegal aliens already in the country. Republican opponents of the proposal call it “amnesty” since it doesn’t deport current illegals for breaking immigration laws.
“The American people are counting on us to secure our borders and restore the rule of law to our immigration system,” Sen. Jeff Sessions, Alabama Republican and Judiciary Committee member, said Monday night after voting against the proposal.
He said the panel had “let the American people down by passing out a blanket amnesty bill. We’ve been down this path several times before, and it proved a failure.”
Conservatives were especially appalled to see so many Republicans—Sens. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, Mike DeWine of Ohio, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Sam Brownback of Kansas—join panel Democrats to approve the proposal.
The only solace for the conservatives has been the House, where many Republicans adamantly oppose any process that permits current illegals to apply for citizenship without first leaving the country. Also, they say Congress must prove to voters that they can enforce existing immigration laws and strengthen the borders before creating any guest-worker program that draws new immigrants.
Mr. Boehner and other House leaders said yesterday they still prefer their border-security-only bill.
“Border security is a huge, huge issue everywhere,” said Majority Whip Roy Blunt, Missouri Republican. “House members are on the right side of the issue.”
Mr. Blunt declined to give an opinion on the Senate proposal or even whether he considered it amnesty.
“I don’t know what the Senate will finally do at the end of the process,” he said.
But, like Mr. Boehner, Mr. Blunt indicated he is open to compromise.
WASHINGTON—Immigration reform legislation is doomed to stall this year if the full U.S. Senate passes the type of guest worker bill that cleared a committee hurdle Monday, U.S. Rep. Tom Tancredo said.
Tancredo, R-Colo., issued a statement lashing out at the Senate Judiciary Committee after it approved a bipartisan bill that could grant legal work status to millions of immigrants who entered the country illegally.
“No plan with amnesty and a massive increase in foreign workers will pass the House,” said Tancredo, who leads the Congressional Immigration Reform Caucus.
“Amnesty and foreign workers are fundamentally incompatible with the House’s approach and, according to every recent poll, they are not what Americans want.”
The Senate is poised to begin two weeks of debate and amendments today, and the final version of the bill might look very different from the measure the committee approved Monday.
The bill is based on a plan by Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., and is co-sponsored by Sen. Ken Salazar, D-Denver.
Sen. Wayne Allard, R-Loveland, has co-sponsored his own version of immigration reform.
But it is Tancredo who has taken his national profile to new heights over the past week.
For example, he appeared Sunday on This Week, a national political talk show, opposite the Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Arlen Specter, R-Pa.
And each day last week, he issued provocative statements, trying to pressure members of the Senate Judiciary Committee—including many fellow Republicans—into rejecting the McCain-Kennedy approach.