PAULS VALLEY, Oklahoma — As House Republicans continue pandering to their conservative base about “amnesty” in immigration reform, one GOP congressman is standing up and explaining why they’re all wrong.
At a town hall in central Oklahoma on Friday, Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK) took a number of questions on immigration and the comprehensive bill that passed the Senate this summer. He explained that even though he opposed the Senate bill in its current form, it “gets mischaracterized” as “amnesty”– one kind of argument that’s often perpetuated by immigration opponents. “It’s not amnesty,” Cole argued, detailing the various hurdles that immigrants would have to overcome before becoming citizens, including learning English, paying back taxes and a fine, and passing a background check.
COLE: The last thing I’d say — I want to be fair to the Senate here, because I think it gets mischaracterized — you can’t have amnesty. A lot of people say the Senate bill is amnesty. I would not vote for the Senate bill, but it’s not amnesty. They’ve got to learn English, you have to have a background check, you have to pay all of your taxes, you have to pay a fine, you have to go to the back of the line. That may not be enough, we can debate that. That’s not amnesty.
Amnesty would be a bill that simply puts all 11 million undocumented immigrants on a pathway to citizenship with no preconditions. Yet the Senate immigration bill has a set of rigorous pre-conditions that take a little more than a decade to achieve. Amnesty as Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) paints it, “is wiping the slate clean and not paying any penalty for having done something wrong.” But even Ryan considers that the Senate immigration bill equates earned legalization, rather than amnesty.
However even tough border security provisions is not enough for some anti-immigrant Republicans like Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) who deride any legislation that provides a pathway to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants already in the country as “amnesty.”
Cole, a top ally to House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) indicated that House Republicans would not vote on a Senate immigration bill.
As the August recess gets underway, several House Republicans facing their constituents at home have already softened their stance on the same kind of legal status provision provided in the Senate immigration bill.