House Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, made it clear over the weekend that his members aren’t interested in following the Senate’s lead and passing a massive comprehensive immigration-reform bill.
Instead, the Republican majority in the House has talked about pushing through a series of smaller bills that will not address the underlying causes of this nation’s dysfunctional immigration system.
The GOP’s intent is clear: Don’t give President Obama and the Democratic controlled Senate a win they can carry into the 2014 midterm election.
It should be pointed out that the reform bill that passed the Senate on a 68-32 vote was supported by 14 Republicans and has been endorsed by former Republican President George W. Bush and his brother, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush. The measure offers a pathway to citizenship for the 11 million immigrants who are in this country illegally and tightens border security by doubling the size of the border patrol and constructing a 700-mile high-tech security fence.
Nonetheless, the aptly named Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013, got to the House dead-on-arrival.
Why? According to McClatchy-Tribune News Service, many Republican representatives aren’t in favor of providing a 13-year path to citizenship. In addition, a significant number of representatives come from congressional districts that have few minority voters and, therefore, they aren’t taking any political risks by opposing comprehensive immigration reform.
Given the absence of a united front in the GOP caucus, Speaker Boehner isn’t willing to use the power of his office to win votes. In fact, he said Sunday that his top priority is to fix the nation’s fiscal problems and that immigration reform isn’t high on his agenda.
Even so, Republicans don’t want to be accused of ignoring the immigration issue when a majority of the American people believes something must be done to stop the flow of illegals and to address the problems caused by having millions of undocumented people living in the shadows,
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., is pushing the “Kids Act,” which would legalize young people without legal status because they were brought to this country by their parents who entered illegally or stayed on expired visas.
The problem with this approach is that it would result in families being broken up, since the parents would be forced to return to their homelands, leaving their children behind.
By contrast, the bipartisan bill passed by the Senate would provide a path to citizenship for all illegal immigrants.
“The ‘Kids Act’ is just childish games by House Republicans,” Cesar Vargas, director of a coalition that advocates for young immigrants, told McClatchy-Tribune. “It pits dreamers against our families.”
And Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill., offered this observation Wednesday after House Republicans took a tentative step toward the “Kids Act”: “I cannot imagine for one minute that Republicans, who also honor the sanctity of families, want to legalize the children, but leave the rest of the family vulnerable.”
The White House and Democrats on Capitol Hill have made it clear the Republican plan is unacceptable, which means it is going no where.
Rather than waste time on such legislative sleight-of-hand, Speaker Boehner should use the power of his office to build support for true comprehensive immigration reform.