November 18, 2013

Immigration reform backers press Congress to draft legislation ASAP

Immigration reform advocates on and off Capitol Hill say they won't take House Speaker John Boehner's "no" for an answer and will continue to press Congress to immediately move on legislation that includes a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants.

U.S. Chamber of Commerce Chief Executive Thomas J. Donohue, whose organization is among a loose coalition of business, political and religious groups pressing for immigration reform, vowed "to continue to push forward" on the effort.

"The chamber remains committed to advancing immigration reform, and we’re going to keep working with all our partners to do what’s in the best interest of this great nation," he said. "No one ever thought this was going to be easy, but we’re going to see it through."

Jay Timmons, president and CEO of the National Association of Manufacturers, said immigration reform is a top priority for his group because without it, "we will continue sending talent to our competitors and turning away a future generation of innovators and entrepreneurs."

Catholic Bishop John Wester of Salt Lake City said fixing the nation's broken immigration system is a moral issue and one that shouldn't be held back because of partisan bickering.

"From the faith perspective, immigration reform is about human beings and their basic rights, life and dignity," he said. "Too often in this nation, we witness the violation of the rights of immigrants and the loss of their dignity and, yes, lives.

"Let us pray that our elected officials developed the courage to move this issue forward in the days and months ahead."

Boehner, R-Ohio, on Wednesday said the House won't bring up legislation resembling the comprehensive Senate-passed measure that would legalize millions of illegal immigrants living in the U.S. and make them eligible for citizenship.

Boehner said the House instead would tackle the issue by drafting piecemeal measures — not the Senate's approach involving one comprehensive bill. He said his conference is working on a "set of principles" that would guide those reforms.

"The idea that we're going to take up a 1,300-page bill that no one had ever read, which is what the Senate did, is not going to happen in the House," Boehner said.

Democrats decry Boehner's move, saying he's afraid to bring up a bill resembling the Senate measure because he fears it would pass — thus giving the Senate a victory.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., called Boehner's announcement "outrageous."

"That's just a dereliction of duty in terms of what our responsibilities are here and removes any credible moral authority on the subject of immigration from any of the Republicans," she said.

But Americans for Tax Reform President Grover Norquist, who supports immigration reform, called Boehner's announcement "a good first step" toward moving the issue forward.

The anti-tax advocate said it's Democrats and President Obama — not Boehner — who have dropped the ball, saying that the president has "chose[n] not to take any affirmative step toward even thinking about it."

"You've got people who care about immigration on the Democrat side really [upset] at the president for screwing them by not moving on the issue when he had a majority [in Congress until early 2011] and not making any effort to work with Republicans since," he said.

Norquist added that if the Republican-run House passes a few smaller immigration-related bills, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., would feel immense pressure from many fellow Democrats, as well as outside groups, to act.

"I understand why a Democrat would go, 'Oh yeah, well, we don't want to do it your way.' Well, you know what? It's not exactly your choice since you failed to do it any way up until now," Norquist said.

"The [Democrats] are in a much more tenuous situation than they'd like to pretend they are. They need [immigration reform] as much or more than the [Republicans] do."

Still, some Democrats say they haven't given up hope that a comprehensive immigration reform package can clear both chambers.

Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said he thinks a deal still is possible this year. And if not, "I think we have a real good chance to do it in the first half of next year."

"If I had to bet money, we’re going to have an immigration reform bill on the president’s desk," the senator said.

And Pelosi suggested Boehner may be bluffing when he said he wouldn't negotiate with the Senate.

"I don't know whether people are taking it seriously or not," she said. "I don't even accept that as a serious statement because if it were a serious statement, there would be much more uproar about it."


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