Is immigration reform doomed? GOPers are concerned about border security. Republicans in the House want their own legislation. And some Dems want to add a provision in the bill, drawing ire from the right, to protect gay couples.
First, gun control went down to defeat. Next up, immigration?
Republican Sen. Marco Rubio isn’t feeling optimistic about the bipartisan immigration reform bill he’s co-sponsoring, saying he doesn’t think there will be enough votes in the GOP-controlled House to get it passed.
“The bill that’s in place right now probably can’t pass the House,” the Florida lawmaker told conservative radio host Mike Gallagher. “It will have to be adjusted because people are very suspicious about the willingness of the government to enforce the laws now.”
The legislation, which was unveiled two weeks ago, would create a minimum 13-year path to citizenship for those who entered the country illegally before 2012—paired with approximately $2,000 in fines and hundreds more in fees.
Undocumented immigrants would remain in a provisional status for a decade (being able to work legally but prohibited from receiving federal benefits, including healthcare.). After the 10 years, they could get a green card, but only if the Homeland Security Department “substantially” improves border security. Then, after three years, those immigrants could petition for citizenship.
Rubio admitted that he, along with other conservatives, is concerned about the government truly tightening border security. “That’s a very legitimate suspicion,” he said, adding that he hopes changes will be made to get the House on board. The Senate Judiciary Committee will begin marking up the legislation on May 9.
The bill won’t be smooth sailing with Democrats either. The Dems in the “Gang of Eight” agreed to drop a provision in the bill that would protect gay couples, probably out of fear that GOP opposition to that rule could sink the whole bill. There’s still a chance that the measure could be added as an amendment by Sen. Patrick Leahy, although some Republicans are threatening to abandon the entire piece of legislation if that happens.
Rubio told Politico that the amendment “will virtually guarantee that it won’t pass.”
Meanwhile, House conservatives have said they may create their own immigration legislation. House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, a Virginia Republican, said he would introduce reform in bite-size pieces, rather than one sweeping overhaul. Democrats immediately shunned the idea.
President Obama is still praising the Senate bill, although he says it’s stricter than what he would have proposed. The commander in chief, for example, has not supported making citizenship contingent on border security.
“The bill that they produced is not the bill that I would have written, there are elements of it that I would change, but I do think it meets the basic criteria that I laid out from the start,” he said at a press conference on Tuesday. That criteria includes creating a pathway to citizenship, beefing up border security and cracking down on employers who hire undocumented workers. Obama added he was open to different legislation proposed by the House, but only if his criteria is still met.
“I think that we should be able to come up with an appropriate compromise,” he said. “If it doesn’t meet those criteria, then I will not support such a bill…We’ll have to wait and see.”