Even after two key House Republicans left an immigration group and halted progress on drafting an immigration bill, House Democrats are not losing hope on an immigration reform overhaul. On Wednesday, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) along with other Democrat cosponsors held a press conference to introduce a thus-far, 1,137 page comprehensive immigration bill based on bipartisan policy.
Optimistic about passing a bill that would stop deportations and provide a pathway to citizenship, the group “believes that the vote is there.” They also indicated that Democrats are willing to move forward on an immigration bill.
“This is 100 percent bipartisan. Best of the Senate bill, subtract Corker, and adding the House Homeland Security Committee,” Pelosi said. “This is not a challenge to the Speaker [John Boehner (R-OH)]. One of the criterion we had was that it had be to bipartisan. The Speaker said that he would like to bring something to the floor. We would like to see characteristics like these in his bill.”
Rep. Joe Garcia (D-FL) delivered a speech in English and Spanish saying, “Today we’re not introducing a perfect bill, but… we’re taking the hard work done in the Senate and a bill that takes the detailed and specific work done in the House…What we’re putting forward is a bill that has received Republican votes. We chose to show that we want to get this done now. We’re putting together a bill that works. We know that there are a number of Republicans who want citizenship… What we’re saying is that on the Democratic side, we’re ready… there’s no reason to have dysfunction.”
Co-sponsors Reps. Judy Chu (R-CA), Steven Horsford (D-NV), Suzan DelBene (D-WA), and Jared Polis (D-CO) were also present at the press conference.
House Democrats are likely using the bill to pressure top Republican leaders to bring a vote on an immigration bill to the floor. The House Democrat version of a comprehensive immigration bill maintains much of the Senate immigration bill, except that it strips away the Republican-led Corker-Hoeven “border surge” amendment– an amendment that was instrumental in cinching bipartisan support. The bill would provide immediate legal status and a conditional pathway to citizenship (a House Democrat requirement) and border security measures (a House Republican stipulation). The border security provisions are drawn from a bill passed in May in the House Homeland Security Committee.
That bill would first create a border strategy before it spends money up front. The core components of the bill include apprehending at least 90 percent of all border crossings within five years, incorporating monitoring equipment brought back from Iraq and Afghanistan, and developing metrics to measure progress at the ports of entry.
Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD) gave the first indication that they would introduce the bill on Tuesday, saying, “We’re going to introduce a CIR bill which takes the best of the Senate and the best of the Senate amendments and the best of the House in terms of enforcement. Is it a perfect bill? It is not. But it a bipartisan bill that we ought to be able to pass and we ought to be able to pass with our Republican friends.”
House Democrat leaders are confident that the bill has enough support if the more than two dozen House Republicans who support a pathway to citizenship vote help to bring the bill to a vote. But House Speaker John Boehner R-OH) only expressed interest in introducing a bill that has majority support from the Republican party. He also hesitated to consider the Senate immigration bill in the House. Other House members are more varied in their support– while some support a piecemeal approach with strong border security measures and a conditional legalization provision, others are strongly opposed to any kind of legalization.
There are 200 House Democrat members and the bill needs at least 218 votes. They are urging those House Republicans to sign on the bill as co-sponsors. They believe that the bill would also help with the current budget issue.
In a statement, Angie Kelley, vice president of immigration policy at the Center of American Progress, said, “Wisely, the bill is comprehensive and doesn’t cut corners. It includes a pathway to citizenship for the 11 million unauthorized immigrants living in the country, robust border and interior enforcement, and updates of our legal immigration system that will super-charge our economy and keep families together.”