House Republicans ready to push for immigration reform in 2015

Rep. Raul Labrador, R-Idaho, said the window between the two election cycles is the best chance for a bill to get the approval of both parties.
By Sylvan Lane, Medill News Service  |  March 12, 2014 at 4:22 PM
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WASHINGTON, March 12 (UPI) -- A group of House Republicans said they’re eager to get cracking on immigration reform, and that a deal could be ready in early 2015 before the presidential campaign season kicks into gear.

Rep. Raul Labrador, R-Idaho, said in an interview Wednesday that many Republican are willing to work on a deal with Democrats after the midterm elections. However, he said, it all depends on President Barack Obama proving his trustworthiness to the congressmen.

"I actually think if the president understands the message that he needs to work with us and we need to trust him, I think we could do it early next year,” said Labrador.

That’s a task easier said than done. One month after Speaker of the House John Boehner, R-Ohio, told reporters his party doesn’t trust the president to implement an immigration reform bill, Republican congressmen are still calling on Obama to prove his allegiance to the Constitution and commitment to securing the border.

"I don't know how you negotiate with a president who either will not follow the law or enforce the law,” said Rep. Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas.

Hensarling, Labrador and a slew of other Republican lawmakers criticized Obama’s “imperial presidency” at Conversations with Conservatives, a panel hosted by The Heritage Foundation. Almost every participant highlighted Obama’s adjustment of Affordable Care Act enrollment and implementation deadlines as evidence of his overreach.

But Labrador said Republicans are willing to move on smaller pieces reforms after November’s congressional elections if Democrats will moderate their “all or nothing” approach. Delaying work on a blockbuster deal until early next year gives both parties a chance to regroup after the midterm election and before the 2016 presidential campaign season gets going.

Labrador said the window between the two election cycles is the best chance for a bill to get the approval of both parties.

But Rep. Louie Gohmert said at the panel that he doesn’t even want to touch the issue of immigration reform until the president secures the border.

“You secure the border as confirmed by the border states…and we will work out a deal very quickly," The Texas Republican said.

While there’s been little legislative action on immigration reform since the Senate passed a comprehensive bill last summer, there’s bipartisan public support for a pathway to legal status, if not citizenship. Roughly two-thirds of Americans support a pathway to legal status, and 54 percent support a pathway to citizenship, according to a January poll conducted by Pew.

This plays perfectly into Republican efforts to bring more Hispanic Americans into the party while holding onto conservative values.

"There's so much we can do to show the Hispanic community that we value them if they value the American value system,” said Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas, who supports a pathway to legal status.

"We just cannot turn our back on that constituency or that issue, but at the same time, we can't just open the border and say 'come on in,’” he said.

“We want people who want to come to America and be economic assets, and not economic liabilities,” added Hensarling.

“You want to roll up your sleeves? You want to work hard? You love freedom? You want to learn the English language -- the language that binds us together as a people, the language of opportunity? We want to find a place for you,” he said.

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