While the Senate has made public its plan for immigration reform, the House may be closer to unveiling an actual piece of legislation on the issue, according to The Hill newspaper
Although it’s not clear how quickly it could move through the lower chamber, a bipartisan group of House members has been working in secret on a draft bill it hopes to release around the time of President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address on Feb. 12.
A hearing on immigration is also planned before the Judiciary Committee on Tuesday.
“We’re going to be aggressively pursuing the issue to see if we can do something that is — I won’t call it all-encompassing — but that encompasses a number of the different issues that are addressed in immigration,” House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte told The Hill.
“I am confident that we will pass legislation dealing with immigration,” he added. “But I don’t know the extent of what we can do yet because the members need to be educated, the issues need to be discussed, and a lot of questions need to be answered about where on a spectrum between deportation and citizenship we can find common ground to bring people who are living in the shadows out of the shadows.”
One of the biggest points of contention is how to address the status of 11 million immigrants already in the country illegally. Although the Senate has advocated a piecemeal approach, allowing them to apply for citizenship only after stricter enforcement of border security and employment verification, many conservatives regard any move to grant them citizenship as amnesty. A bipartisan Senate group revealed its five-page framework of principles on Jan. 28.
President Obama and many liberals favor comprehensive legislation that would allow for a smoother, quicker path to citizenship.
Members of the bipartisan House group working to complete draft legislation reportedly include Republican Reps. Mario Diaz-Balart of Florida and John Carter and Sam Johnson of Texas, along with Democratic Reps. Luis Gutierrez of Illinois and Xavier Becerra and Zoe Lofgren, both from California.
Although House Speaker John Boehner told the Ripon Society last month that the House panel, which has been working in secret, is close to reaching a deal, a Congressional aide told The Hill they are not there yet.
“They have not come to agreement on some of the big stuff,” he said.
For his part, Goodlatte said he doesn't view the work being done on immigration as "a race" with the Senate.
"We want to get it done quickly, but getting it right trumps that," he told The Hill.
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