Pressure builds up on the GOP.
By Deepak Chitnis
WASHINGTON, DC: On the heels of President Barack Obama’s statement last week that immigration reform has an increasingly small window of “two to three months” in which it can be passed this year, the spotlight has shifted over to the Republicans, with Speaker of the House John Boehner having to lead the party’s stance on the controversial issue.
All signs from the GOP over the last few months have indicated that Boehner and his fellow conservatives are willing to work with the left on passing immigration reform. In fact, several Republican legislators – such as California Rep. Jeff Dunham and Florida Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart – are working on different bills that address the specific concerns Republicans have voiced since the comprehensive immigration reform push took off last year.
Boehner has remained firm that any immigration reform that passes must address the issue of border security, in order to keep further undocumented immigrants from sneaking into the US. While Boehner, and the majority of his fellow Republicans, were also heavily reticent to allow a pathway to citizenship for undocumented workers in the US, they’ve begun opening up to that possibility.
But throughout the immigration debate, Boehner and Republicans have said repeatedly that they simply do not trust Obama to adequately implement and enforce these new immigration laws. Bipartisanship on Capitol Hill has only increased in the year since the Senate passed the Gang of Eight bill, and with midterm primaries already underway in some districts, immigration reform’s days are numbered.
The Hill reports that Boehner may be looking at immigration reform as a way of sealing his legacy as Speaker of the House, in much the same way that Obama views the Affordable Care Act as his defining moment in office (for better or worse). Boehner’s time as Speaker of the House could come to an end in January, depending on how the elections go, so it would be in his best interest to get momentum going as soon as possible.
But Republican candidates who are running in the midterms are reluctant to take immigration reform head-on. Because it’s such a hot-button issue, Republicans stand to alienate certain voters, and the GOP would rather rally around the general dislike and confusion of Obamacare. However, Politico reports that pro-immigration Republicans do have a chance, as Rep. Renee Ellmers won her primary in North Carolina despite being highly pro-immigration reform.
And, at the end of the day, nearly all the issues regarding the differences of the left and the right on immigration reform have to do with the bill’s treatment of illegal immigrants. Legal immigration has remained essentially untouched from what was passed by the Senate last June, although Washington is making moves to allow H-4 visa holders that opportunity to work in the US for the first time.
The biggest hurdle currently facing immigration reform, however, is whether or not Republicans can band together as a party. The GOP remains somewhat fractured on the best way to handle immigration reform, and as long as that remains, forward movement will be sluggish, at best. Boehner himself has spoken about his frustration within his own party, and of the need for conservatives to get on the same page.
Expect immigration reform to stay on the lips of those in Washington, and those seeking to be in Washington, over the next several weeks.