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What We’ll Be Looking for in House GOP Immigration Bills

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Yesterday, both the Wall Street Journal and Greg Sargent at the Washington Post highlighted that House Republicans are working on legalization bills dealing with the undocumented immigrant population in America.  The Journal reported that both Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL) and Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) are working on separate legislation, while Sargent reported Diaz-Balart’s claim “that a ‘number’ of House Republicans are in negotiations to develop a piecemeal solution to the problem of the 11 million undocumented immigrants – with the goal of commanding a majority of Republicans.”

Additionally, today, Speaker of the House John Boehner reiterated his belief that the House should move on immigration this year, saying “I still think immigration reform is an important subject that needs to be addressed.”

As America’s Voice noted yesterday, we are pleased to have confirmed that House Republicans are preparing legislation that directly addresses the status of undocumented immigrants.  It’s a positive sign that legislation is soon to be introduced, but we need to see it on paper.  It’s impossible to judge the details from media reports, and introducing legislation in the House is long overdue.

So long as the bills remain in the pre-introduction, “being worked on” phase, we wanted to provide some friendly advice for the bill’s drafters.  Below is a roadmap of key provisions we need to see in the forthcoming legislation:

  • Must include inclusive legalization measures and an achievable path to citizenship: An inclusive path to initial legal status and a realistic and achievable path to eventual citizenship for 11 million aspiring Americans is the popular heart of immigration reform.  We will judge the seriousness of these new bills through that lens.  Citizenship is the only policy that achieves both the nation’s policy goals of full inclusion and Republicans’ political goals of putting a new face forward to Latino, Asian, and immigrant voters.
  • Must not include the SAFE ActThe SAFE Act is anti-immigrant legislation that, in the words of the New York Timeswould turn millions of undocumented immigrants “into criminals overnight” and would advance discredited and Draconian policies such as Arizona’s “show me your papers” law.  Immigration legislation cannot simultaneously bring millions of people out of the shadows and then unleash police to question their status at every turn.  The two policy goals are simply incompatible and politically suicidal, as Republicans should have learned in the last election.
  • Must attract bipartisan support: Because House Republicans are divided, they will need some Democratic votes to pass any immigration bill in Congress.  But the good news is, the votes for a path to citizenship are already there.  At least 28 House Republicans who have publicly endorsed a path to citizenship for the undocumented as a component of immigration reform, as well as an unknown number of private supporters.  This means that the bill must meet the standards of both Republicans and Democrats—and that means an inclusive, fair path to citizenship.

According to Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice:

The time is now for Republicans to bring forward a serious proposal regarding the nation’s 11 million undocumented immigrants. Given that the votes exist for such a proposal right now, it is no longer acceptable for House leadership to hide behind process excuses.  We look forward to seeing critical details of the legislation being drafted and call on Republicans working on it to remember that nothing can pass that doesn’t attract significant Democratic support.