House GOP debates immigration

By USA Today July 11, 2013 6:47 am

House Republicans dug in their opposition to the Senate-passed immigration overhaul at a closed-door meeting Wednesday in which lawmakers began mapping out a slower, piecemeal approach to immigration and border security.
"Comprehensive (immigration reform) has always been a swear word" for House Republicans, said Rep. Raul Labrador, R-Idaho, adding that the overwhelming consensus among the rank-and-file is to approve smaller pieces of legislation that deal with individual problems.
It was the first in-depth, conference-wide meeting on immigration since the Senate approved, 68-32, last month an immigration bill that included enhanced border security and a pathway to citizenship for the 11million undocumented immigrants residing in the country.
House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, has said the Senate bill stands no chance of passage in the House of Representatives, and he has committed to not allowing any legislation to come to the floor that does not have the support of the majority of the chamber's 234 Republican members.
Americans "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 rather than pursuing a step-by-step, common-sense approach to actually fix the problem," GOP leaders said in a joint statement after the meeting.
House members expect to take up legislation dealing with border security, worker verification systems and temporary visas for high-skilled workers. There is no consensus on how to approach -- if at all -- a pathway to citizenship for the undocumented, which has significant resistance among Republicans.
Several Republicans emerging from Wednesday's meeting discussed breaking up the pool of 11million undocumented immigrants and handling them in different ways.
Many said they would feel comfortable giving immigrants who were brought illegally into the country as children legal status and the ability to apply for citizenship. "There was some voices of strong compassion for people in that situation," said Rep. Doug Lamborn, R-Colo.
Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., said another group of undocumented immigrants -- serious criminals -- should face immediate deportation. However, Issa said, there's a group in the middle who could be given "long term" visas that would allow them to live and work in the country but require them to go back to their home countries for some time.
There is no legislation scheduled for floor action this month, meaning the earliest potential votes will come this fall after the August recess.
House Democrats, meanwhile, are increasingly vocal that they will not to support any immigration effort that does not include a pathway to citizenship. Senior Democrats say they will resist a piecemeal approach. "I don't know that the Republican leadership has a strategy that is workable," said House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Md.
President Obama huddled Wednesday with members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. The White House and its allies are likely to use the summer to keep pressure on House Republicans to act.
Contributing: David Jackson
J. Scott Applewhite, AP
A service of YellowBrix, Inc.