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Memo to Speaker Boehner and the House GOP: If You Don’t Like President Obama’s Executive Action on Immigration, Then Bring Comprehensive Immigration Reform to a Vote this Year. Pass. The. Bill.

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With Congress back in session this week, the Republican-controlled House of Representatives is teeing up attacks on President Obama’s lawful use of executive action on immigration, with the House kicking things off with two hearings scheduled for Tuesday.

If Republicans are actually serious about dealing with immigration and preempting President Obama’s executive action, they have a golden opportunity to do just that.  Their option?  Pass. The. Bill.

The bipartisan Senate immigration bill passed in this Congress, with 68 Democrats, Republicans, and Independents – representing 81% of the American people – voting in favor of this legislation.  The bill is set to expire at the end of this year, giving the House has one last shot and two last weeks to do its job, which is to legislate. 

A very similar version of the Senate bill has languished on Speaker of the House John Boehner’s (R-OH) desk for over 500 days, despite 200 House cosponsors and enough votes to pass the House right now.  In less time than the show trial-style oversight hearings being organized by House and Senate Republicans, Speaker Boehner could replace the President’s executive action with a lasting legislative overhaul.  The public overwhelmingly supports this bill and its approach to immigration reform, which would strengthen our borders, bolster our economy, and require undocumented immigrants to undergo a background check, pay taxes, learn English and then get in a line to have a chance to one day become citizens.  Yet, Speaker Boehner refuses to bring it up for even a vote.

As William Galston recently wrote in a Wall Street Journal column titled, “The Law is With Obama on Immigration,” Congressional Republicans have three choices on how to respond to the President’s lawful executive actions:

They can try to use the power of the purse to prevent the president from carrying out his decision, which could lead to another government shutdown, an outcome that incoming Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has pledged to avert.  They can try to take the administration to court, which would have a low probability of success.  Or they can try to do what they should have done years ago: Amend the Immigration and Nationality Act to create a better legal regime.  Isn’t it time for our legislators to stop whining and start legislating?

Meanwhile, polls show Americans are quite comfortable with the policy contours of President Obama’s action on immigration.  According to a recent CNN/ORC poll, 72% believe the policy changes are either “about right” (50%) or “not far enough” (22%), while 26% say it goes “too far.”  Meanwhile, the President’s numbers on handling of immigration have actually risen ten points since September while his overall approval rating remains constant.  While Republicans seem to think that they have put the President in a process quagmire, the fact is that they are in a much deeper hole.  Sixty percent of Americans say Republicans should not sue to try to stop Obama’s immigration plans, and 76% say they should spend their time trying to pass a comprehensive reform bill rather than trying to stop the President from acting. 

Latino voters of all political ideologies are firmly in favor of the President’s plans and opposed to Republicans’ attempts to derail them.  According to a Latino Decisions poll, 89% of Latino voters (including 95% of Latino Democrats, 81% of Independents, and 76% of Republicans) support the action.  Large majorities of Latino voters also think Republicans in Congress bear the brunt of responsibility for the lack of progress on immigration (64%) and oppose Republicans’ attempts to obstruct the Administration’s new plans by filing lawsuits (74%) or restricting funding (80%).

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

Speaker Boehner: Pass. The. Bill.  It’s time to stop complaining and start legislating.  If you are so determined to show the American people you can govern responsibly, then start with immigration reform and do it this month.  If Speaker Boehner and the House GOP refuse to call the vote, it will reveal an uncomfortable truth: the nativist wing of the GOP is calling the shots on immigration, and Speaker Boehner is more interested in keeping his job than in delivering comprehensive immigration reform to the nation.