House Immigration Group Agrees To Preliminary Principles For 15-Year Path To Citizenship

Late Thursday, Rep. John Carter (R-TX) indicated that the House bipartisan group working on immigration reform finalized an “agreement in principle” on a comprehensive immigration reform bill. Although many of the bill’s elements are not yet known, the House intends to create a 15-year path to citizenship, longer than the 13-year citizenship plan in the Senate bill. In addition, the group will likely require that undocumented immigrants submit a written confession before they move to “probationary status.” The bill is set to be unveiled around June 4.

Hours before the Thursday announcement, there were still tense negotiations that the House bill would fall apart. Among the major issues for contention was the funding costs associated with immigrant health care that Republicans insisted did not come from taxpayer money, for which Rep. Raul Labrador (R-ID) was the last holdout. He is a major stakeholder in the House Gang of Eight “because he represents Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s interests.” One of the more partisan hurdles that both groups worked through was that Republican members insisted on making the E-Verify system universal and checking in at the five-year mark. If E-Verify was not put in place by then, then the legalization program would end.

Because the bipartisan House group has been more fractured in its compromise than Senate immigration bill negotiators, this agreement represents a significant change of bipartisan effort to overhaul the immigration system. Carter, a member of the group, has been a strong opponent to immigration legislation such as the Dream Act bill of 2010 that fell five votes short of passage, but a vocal advocate for the controversial Arizona’s ability to check an individual’s immigration status.