GOP Leaders Plan Immigration Push after Debt Ceiling Debate
While the rest of the country is fixated on Congressional budget battles, House Republican leaders continue to negotiate immigration legislation behind the scenes, preparing for what appears to be an amnesty debate in the House as soon as late October.
Only days ago, Rep. Mike McCaul Chairman of the House Homeland Security expressed confidence immigration will soon be on the House agenda. "I would think that [immigration] would be the next agenda item in the queue after we're done with this mess," Rep. Michael McCaul told reporters this past week, referring to clashes over government funding and the pending debt ceiling debate.
Likewise, House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte , recently said he anticipates swift movement on immigration following the debt ceiling debate. During an interview with NPR's Kojo Nnamdi last month, Goodlatte told listeners the House could move on immigration legislation shortly. "[M]y best estimate is that we will be ready to take up immigration bills very soon. It may be October, but in my opinion, the five bills that have been passed out of [committee]…are ready to go to the floor of the House. And it's my hope that they will come to the floor of the House as soon as possible."
Other Members have pushed the date back until closer to the Thanksgiving recess, which takes place the week of November 25. According to true immigration reformer Rep. Steve King "[L]eadership is looking to a date near Thanksgiving to try to move something."
Meanwhile, a spokesperson for Majority Leader Eric Cantor, Doug Heye, has confirmed immigration remains on the House agenda, but has refused to say when it may be addressed. "Moving immigration forward remains a priority, but right now there's no firm timetable," he said. (Fox News Latino, Sept. 30, 2013)
When the House acts, it is widely expected that Speaker John Boehner will first take up Rep. McCaul's border bill, co-sponsored by fellow Texan and longtime amnesty advocate Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee Unfortunately, H.R. 1417 shares many of the same problems with the Senate amnesty bill For example, H.R. 1417 requires the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to submit a plan for apprehending 90 percent of illegal border crossers, but fails to require that DHS actually achieve that goal. Many anticipate House Leadership intends to use H.R. 1417 as a vehicle to conference with the Senate bill.
In addition to H.R. 1417, Speaker Boehner is also expected to bring to the floor one or more immigration bills authored by House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte . Chairman Goodlatte recently met with leading pro-amnesty Democrats about reaching a consensus on an amnesty scheme for the current 11-12 million illegal aliens in the country. According to news reports, Goodlatte sat down with Reps. Luis Gutierrez and Henry Cuellar to discuss how to move forward legislation. According to Rep. Cuellar, Chairman Goodlatte expressed willingness to work with the pro-amnesty representatives and to support some of their amendments to his immigration bills. (Roll Call, Sept. 26, 2013)
Pro-Amnesty Groups Plan October Push
Pro-amnesty groups announced last week plans to increase pressure for "comprehensive" immigration reform this fall. First, pro-amnesty activists are planning a so-called "National Day for Dignity and Respect" on October 5, with rallies and protests in dozens of cities calling for the end of all deportations of illegal aliens in the country. (Washington Post, Sept. 26, 2013) Then, on October 8 there will be a rally on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. to pressure House Republicans to pass "comprehensive" reform. (Id.; USA Today, Sept. 26, 2013) "We will see an outpouring from the community demanding a serious effort by Republicans to get immigration reform moving in the House," said long-time amnesty advocate Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL). (USA Today, Sept. 26, 2013) "I think the call will be so loud it will be hard to continue stalling." (Id.) Congress "should understand we're not going away," he added. (Washington Post, Sept. 26, 2013)
However, since Congress rarely addresses hot-button issues — such as amnesty — during an election year, pro-amnesty groups have acknowledged time is of the essence if Congress is to approve a legalization program. "We really need the House to take action to have floor votes this fall," said Frank Sharry, executive director of the pro-amnesty America's Voice. (USA Today, Sept. 26, 2013) "If they don't, it's going to be — not impossible — but much tougher as we move into an election year." (Id.) Indeed, the House has fewer than 30 working days remaining in 2013, leaving current efforts to pass amnesty up in the air. "I think it's the conventional wisdom that immigration reform is dead in the House," speculated Stephen Yale-Loehr, an "immigration scholar" at Cornell Law School. (Id.) "But I think there could still be a surprise," he opined. (Id.)
White House Sees "Positive Signs" from House GOP that Senate Amnesty Bill Will Become Law
At a Georgetown University symposium entitled "Implementing Immigration Reform: Imagine the Possibilities" last Wednesday, a high level Obama administration official expressed optimism about the possibility that S. 744, the Senate comprehensive amnesty bill, would become law.
Obama's Senior Policy Director for Immigration, Felicia Escobar, said the White House has received "positive signs that Speaker Boehner and the Republican caucus do want to find a solution." (The Daily Caller, Sept. 25, 2013). Escobar based her statement on conversations held with House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA), and Judiciary Committee Chair Bob Goodlatte (R-VA). Moreover, Escobar suggested the White House was not fixated on the House passing a comprehensive amnesty bill. If the House brings to the floor a bill that is not comprehensive, Escobar said, it was "OK if we can get to a place and sit down and negotiate a final product" that incorporates amnesty. (Id.)