House Republicans Work Immigration Behind Scenes

Erica Werner, ABC News, September 30, 2013

Immigration overhaul legislation has been dormant in the House for months, but a few Republicans are working behind the scenes to advance it at a time the Capitol is immersed in a partisan brawl over government spending and President Barack Obama’s health care law.

The chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Rep. Bob Goodlatte, has been discussing possible legal status for the estimated 11 million immigrants living in the U.S. illegally. He’s also been working with House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, a fellow Virginia Republican, on a bill offering citizenship to immigrants brought illegally to the U.S. as children.

Reps. Raul Labrador, R-Idaho, and Ted Poe, R-Texas, are working on a plan to create a visa program allowing more lower-skilled workers into the country.

Goodlatte and the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, Rep. Mike McCaul, R-Texas, hold out hopes for floor action by late October on a series of immigration bills that already have passed their committees.


Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and other members of the House Republican leadership also support a resolution to an issue that has become a political drag for their party.

While Goodlatte has been outspoken about his desire to get legislation to the floor as soon as possible, House leaders have been more circumspect, adding to the uncertainty about whether or when anything actually will happen.


House leaders have said they plan a step-by-step approach, in contrast to the comprehensive Senate bill that added billions of dollars in new spending on border security, remade the legal immigration system from top to bottom and created a 13-year path to citizenship for the millions living here illegally.


But so far, there’s been no House GOP bill taking on the trickiest policy issue for Republicans: what to do about those already here illegally.

A bill in the works by Cantor and Goodlatte would offer eventual citizenship to immigrants brought here as children. The proposal appears have support from a fair number of Republicans. But many Republicans are wary of backing anything broader that could be perceived as “amnesty” for people who broke U.S. immigration laws to be in this country.

There’s no guarantee House Republicans ever will offer a bill to resolve that issue, much less bring it to the floor for a vote.

Still, Goodlatte has outlined in some detail what he would like to see in such a bill, and his approach may contain the seeds of compromise.

Goodlatte would allow immigrants here illegally to obtain legal work status, and from there, they could use the existing routes to citizenship: marrying a U.S. citizen or getting sponsored by an employer or U.S. citizen relative. Such an approach would allow Republicans to deal with millions of people in the U.S. illegally without bestowing a so-called special path to citizenship as the Senate did—a concept that’s become toxic to many in the GOP.


House Democratic leaders have grown impatient with Republicans’ inaction and are looking at introducing a sweeping immigration bill of their own—a modified version of the legislation that passed the Senate—in an effort to pressure the GOP. Advocates are promising rallies and protests around the country Oct. 5 to keep up pressure.


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