Posted: Monday, January 6, 2014 10:30 pm
By Cesar Neyoy

Left unsettled in 2013, immigration reform is back before Congress, but Yuma County's two members of the U.S. House have different views about its prospects in the new year.

U.S. Rep. Raul Grijalva, a Democrat, says 2014 could open a window of opportunity for immigration reform, if for no other reason than GOP lawmakers will be reluctant to oppose it for fear of incurring voter wrath.

Republican Paul Gosar says there's "zero chance" the House of Representatives will accept a previously approved Senate reform bill that is currently stalled in the House.

The Senate measure approved in June would offer a path to legalization and ultimately citizenship to up to nearly 12 million undocumented immigrants, including "DREAMers," young people who were brought illegally to this country as children by their parents. It would earmark billions of dollars for hiring of additional Border Patrol officers and other border security measures.

The bill stalled in the U.S. House of Representatives, but Grijalva, whose district takes in the southern half of Yuma County, says Republican lawmakers may be less likely to oppose immigration reform ahead of midterm elections in November.

"Something has to happen if not for a humanitarian sensibility, it will be for political consequences that they could suffer," said Grijalva, whose comments came in an interview during a recent visit to Yuma County.

Ultimately, says Grijalva, public pressure will force Congress to act. "We are all under public pressure to makes sure that immigration reform doesn't get lost amid all the other national issues."

He said he sees hopeful signs in House Speaker John Boehner's hiring of Rebecca Tallent, director of immigration policy at the Bipartisan Policy Center, to help craft reform legislation in the House.

"In recent days there has been progress," said Grijalva. "We have seen Boehner choose someone to be in charge of that issue, and he has said something is going to happen."

Even Yuma-area growers are appealing their lawmakers "to do something, because their labor force will be lost," said Grijalva. "The economic damage to this country is going to be tremendous."

Gosar, whose district takes in northern Yuma County, says he sees little significance in the Tallent hiring, given than any measure that results still must have the backing of the Republican majority in the House.

Republicans are committed to immigration reform, he said, but want to tackle the issue in piecemeal fashion, starting with legislation to enhance border security and to address the needs of farmers in Yuma County and elsewhere for foreign labor.

"The Senate bill has zero chance of going through the House," he said, describing the measure as unconstitutional and laden with pork.

Given that, he said, "I have serious doubts (immigration reform) will happen this year."

And he says he's not worried about voter wrath in his district, where, he says, the issues most on the minds of constituents are "jobs, jobs and jobs."