Advocates for immigration reform who balked at a U.S. Senate proposal that adopted a strict border enforcement amendment might soon realize it was the best chance they were going to get.
On Wednesday a group of key House Republicans, including U.S. Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Austin, said in a brief statement that they will not support the Senate’s measure, opting instead for a series of fixes to what the group calls the country’s broken system.
“Today House Republicans affirmed that rather than take up the flawed legislation rushed through the Senate, House committees will continue their work on a step-by-step, common-sense approach to fixing what has long been a broken system," said the group, which includes House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio; Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va.; and House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-Va. McCaul is the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, which oversees the Department of Homeland Security. "The American people want our border secured, our laws enforced and the problems in our immigration system fixed to strengthen our economy,” the group added.
The Senate’s version of comprehensive immigration reform, S. 744, called for a path to eventual citizenship for the estimated 11 million to 12 million undocumented immigrants in the country, but only after strict border security measures were met, including more fencing and an additional 20,000 U.S. Border Patrol agents.
On Sunday on CBS’s Face the Nation, McCaul compared the Senate’s version to the federal health care overhaul referred to as Obamacare — which the House leaders reiterated in their statement on Wednesday.
The American people "don’t trust a Democratic-controlled Washington, and they’re alarmed by the president’s ongoing insistence on enacting a single, massive, Obamacare-like bill,” they said.
U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Laredo, said that after speaking with some of his colleagues earlier this week, he thinks the lower chamber's version will likely be a piecemeal effort that does not make establishing a path to citizenship a first priority. It was a priority in the Senate's original “Gang of Eight” draft.
“We do start off with that basic premise: Whatever the Senate did, it’s not going to be done in the House,” said Cuellar, the only Texan from his party on the House Appropriations Committee. Instead, he added, the House will prioritize security on the border and interior enforcement with a provision that expands the number of agricultural jobs for immigrants.
“But what they are going to do with the 11 or 12 [million] undocumented, we don’t know at this time,” he said.
Wednesday’s meeting came the same day the Congressional Hispanic Caucus met with President Obama to discuss how to move forward on the issue. In a White House statement, it appears Democrats are still pushing for a comprehensive solution with the path-to-citizenship provision intact.
“The president was pleased to hear from CHC members and noted that they share the same priorities, including that any enacted reform legislation must include a path to earned citizenship,” the White House statement said. “The president said that he looks forward to working with them and other members of Congress to pass this important legislation.”