The immigration reform principles unveiled by House Republican leaders earlier this week include several troubling elements for some lawmakers, most notably a path to legal status and a secure border, issues that could split the GOP and launch a new battle over what to do with the nation's 11 million illegal immigrants.
The proposal laid out by House Speaker John Boehner
at the party's three-day retreat does not sit well with many conservatives, who oppose the benefits that legal status would bestow — illegal immigrants would no longer be subject to deportation, they would be authorized to work, and they would be allowed to travel in and out of the U.S. Some consider it to be an "amnesty" that would only encourage future entrants, reports the Christian Science Monitor.
Shortly after the plan was unveiled, GOP. Sen. Ted Cruz
called it 'amnesty' and taking it up now, before November's elections, akin to giving up the Senate.
“Anyone pushing an amnesty bill right now should go ahead and put a 'Harry Reid for Majority Leader' bumper sticker on their car, because that will be the likely effect if Republicans refuse to listen to the American people and foolishly change the subject from Obamacare to amnesty," he said.
And then there is the issue of border security, which if interpreted to mean a fully closed border before anyone receives legal status, would split not only Republicans and Democrats but also alienate more moderate elements of the GOP.
The principles outlined by Boehner include a line stating that "None of this can happen before specific enforcement triggers have been implemented to fulfill our promise to the American people that from here on, our immigration laws will indeed be enforced."
"It is not an exaggeration to say that the future of immigration reform in Congress depends on whether Republican leaders mean what they say in that single sentence," wrote Washington Examiner Chief Political Correspondent Byron York.
"If they do, and the GOP insists on actual border security measures being in place—not just passed, but actually place before illegal immigrants are allowed to register for legal status, then there will likely be significant Republican support for such a bill," he maintained.
"If, on the other hand, GOP lawmakers wriggle around the clear meaning of the principles' last sentence to allow legalization to begin before security measures have been implemented, then the party will be back to the same divisions and animosities that have plagued Republicans since the terrible fights over immigration reform in 2006 and 2007."
Some conservative voices have also suggested that despite GOP intentions, enforcement is not possible as long as President Barack Obama is in the White House.
As the editors of the National Review
wrote this week, "Any immigration deal would have to trade enhanced enforcement for an amnesty. Since the president refuses to enforce key provisions of his own health-care law, let alone provisions of immigration law he finds uncongenial, he obviously can’t be relied on to follow up on his end of any bargain. It is hard to fathom how any Republican can possibly believe otherwise."
Last but not least, there is controversy over giving citizenship to children of illegal immigrants, known as DREAMers, even if the process takes 13 years, with some conservatives arguing it gives them a "head start" over people trying to enter the country legally, noted the Christian Science Monitor.
And it gives them the right to vote, which concerns some GOP legislators. Rep. Stephen King
of Iowa, for example, believes that undocumented immigrants who are allowed to become citizens will eventually vote for Democrats. "It's political suicide for Republicans to do this," he told the Los Angeles Times.
on Thursday predicted if any amnesty program passes with a so-called pathway to citizenship’ it would ruin the Republican Party and leave it a ‘fringe’ party within a decade.
Meanwhile, while the draft proposals may provide a starting point for negotiations with Democrats on overhauling the country's immigration policies, there are still major hurdles.
Although House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi has welcomed the GOP leaderships' taking steps on immigration reform, she warned that Democrats will not accept anything short of citizenship for all illegal immigrants, reports The Hill.
"To talk about legalization is to say that America is not the country we think we are. They wouldn't even be second-class citizens, because they wouldn't be citizens. They'd be second-class residents of our country," she said in a statement Thursday. "I just can't subscribe to that, and that's not where our caucus is," Pelosi added.
At the same time, though, President Obama has suggested he is open to an immigration deal that does not include a path to citizenship.
"If the speaker proposes something that says, right away, folks aren't being deported, families aren't being separated, we're able to attract top young students to provide the skills or start businesses here and then there's a regular process of citizenship, I'm not sure how wide the divide ends up being," Obama said in an interview with CNN's Jake Tapper Friday.
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