By expressing skepticism over the Senate's flagship immigration bill (S. 744), House Republicans have been testing the patience of pro-immigration reform activists. For many weeks, the only words Speaker John Boehner seemed able to say about immigration were that “we [House Republicans] will have our own bill." There have been rumors a House bill will come piecemeal or that it will focus solely on border security.
But in the last few weeks the latter outcome has been losing its post-S. 744 charisma. Reps. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) and Eric Cantor (R-Va.) broke the ice when they announced their plans to co-author legislation that would give children of immigrants a path to citizenship, the unofficially titled “KIDS Act.”
Now, with many Republicans – including leadership reps like Boehner and Cantor – okay with providing a path to citizenship for these children (traditionally referred to as DREAMers), the possibility of immigration reform happening this year seems much more likely. Another major stumbling block – border security – has been impressed on Democrats so well by the GOP that it is understood that S. 744’s border security measures, even with “the surge,” will need to be reformed to the GOP’s tastes.
With the stage set for a long battle between the House and the Senate, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) shook things up during a town hall session at St. Patrick's Catholic Church in Racine, Wisc., on July 27.
"[The House] is going to vote on a bill to legalize people who are undocumented,” Ryan said, after laying out three other major immigration bills the House plans on passing: a border security bill, an interior enforcement bill (to track visas and verify workers legality), and a legal immigration bill for agricultural and skilled workers.
These plans, according to Ryan, will be tentatively brought for a vote in October, and would take effect over 15 years, instead of 13 years like the Senate’s bill. He did not clarify whether the undocumented immigrants who are offered legalization will be only children. And while Ryan did criticize S. 744, it appears some type of path to citizenship will be occurring soon.
"We want to give people an ability to come out of the shadows and get themselves right with the law," he said, reported by the Milwaukee-Wisconsin Journal Sentinel.
Ryan’s comments shouldn’t come as a surprise. For one, many Democrats and pro-immigration reform conservatives (including many evangelical Christians) are calling the GOP out for supporting reform that would offer only children a path to citizenship, separating them from their parents. Add to that the strong condemnation expressed over Rep. Steve King’s bizarre remarks, which lumped drug runners and DREAMers in one group, and suddenly rock-solid opposition to a path to citizenship isn’t the fortress it used to be.
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