Posted on February 6, 2014

Boehner: GOP Immigration Plan Isn’t ‘Amnesty’

Benjy Sarlin, MSNBC, February 4, 2014

House Speaker John Boehner is defending new Republican immigration principles from critics on the right who complain it rewards illegal immigration and plays into President Obama’s hands.

On Tuesday, Boehner’s office released a Q&A explaining why the speaker had decided to pursue immigration reform and how it would address major concerns within his party.

“The focus of this Congress should be on creating jobs and growing our economy,” the document reads. “Reforms to our immigration system will accomplish those goals and address a serious national security issue.”

The immigration principles, released at the House GOP’s retreat in Maryland last week, call for a revamped legal immigration system for both high skilled and temporary workers, new border security and enforcement measures, and–most controversially–a program to legalize qualifying undocumented immigrants.

The most common issue House Republicans have raised with passing reform this year is that they fear Obama will bank the legalization part and then unilaterally refuse to enforce the security measures attached to it. {snip}

But while some Republicans argue that their distrust of Obama is reason to punt on reform for now, even if they agree with it on the policy merits, Boehner affirms their premise to make the opposite case. Immigration reform is worth passing, he argues, because Republicans need a new law that constrains Obama more explicitly.

“Unfortunately, the Senate bill would allow this and future administrations to circumvent the Congress and decide unilaterally how to enforce our immigration laws,” the Q&A reads. “As part of its step-by-step approach, the House would eliminate the ability for any administration to arbitrarily decide which laws to enforce.”


Boehner also takes on the argument that legalization constitutes “amnesty” for immigration violators.

“Just the opposite is true,” the document reads. “Right now, there are few, if any, consequences for living here illegally. What we have now is amnesty.”

It goes on to argue that any legalization would be earned through admitting past wrongdoing, paying back taxes and fines, learn English and American civics, and having to support themselves without federal help. There would be no “special path to citizenship,” although the actual details on how citizenship would be handled under the Republican plan are still unclear.


“None of this can happen before specific enforcement triggers on border security and other measures have been met,” the Q&A reads. “The Senate bill, on the other hand, starts registering illegal immigrants virtually immediately after passage, does not require them to admit they broke any laws, only prohibits access to public benefits during a probationary period.”