House Set to Throw Its Hat Into the Ring on Immigration Reform

Thursday, 31 Jan 2013 09:26 AM

By Lisa Barron

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With both the Senate and President Barack Obama unveiling their proposals for immigration reform earlier this week, the House is making plans of its own.

Some conservatives in the lower chamber have taken issue with the Senate’s proposed policy, which includes a path to citizenship for those in the country illegally, tougher border security, establishing an employment verification system, and creating a guest worker program, reports Politico.

The eight-person bipartisan team is hoping to make an announcement before Feb. 12, the day of the president’s State of the Union address, it said.

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Politico named the members of the House working group as Republicans Mario Diaz-Balart of Florida, Sam Johnson and John Carter of Texas, and Raul Labrador of Idaho. The Democrats are represented by Zoe Lofgren and Xavier Becerra of California, Luis Gutierrez of Illinois and John Yarmuth of Kentucky.

Reflecting the view of many of his colleagues in Congress, Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., said in a statement on Monday, “Extending amnesty to those who came here illegally or overstayed their visas is dangerous waters. We are a nation of laws, and I will evaluate any proposal through that matrix.”

Still, the fact that Mitt Romney was beaten by 50 percentage points among Hispanic voters in November has not been lost on the GOP, and the Republicans are eager to reach a consensus.

The biggest sticking point: offering illegal immigrants a clear path to citizenship. Labrador said in an interview with Politico earlier this week that while he supports the principles laid out by the Senate, “creating a new pathway” for undocumented workers “is not a good idea” and would encourage more illegal immigration.

Some conservatives have advocated a reform plan that would consist of a succession of steps rather than one comprehensive piece of legislation.

But there is still room for agreement. Carter told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram this week that the House measure is “90 percent there.”

“We address all categories — border security and all the things that go to the people who are here illegally,” he said. “I believe we’ve solved the problem of those concerned with the rule of law, but we’ve done it with compassion.”

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Meanwhile, GOP Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky said Wednesday that Republicans must “evolve” on immigration while also protecting the borders. Speaking on commentator Bryan Fischer’s radio program, Paul maintained, “We cannot just be a beacon for everyone to come here on benefits.”

He continued, “So I am concerned, but I’m also open-minded enough to say that it is an issue that we do need to evolve on. But I’m not willing to be so much in adapting that I believe you allow people to come in without having a secure border and without not letting people get to the front of the line.”

Paul reportedly said he would like to have an annual report for Congress to vote on to ensure that border security is being strengthened.

The debate is bound to heat up after the House reveals its plan in the next couple of weeks.

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