In his most detailed endorsement of immigration reform yet, a Nevada Congressman from a deeply conservative district said Wednesday he supports a pathway to citizenship for some immigrants. Rep. Mark Amodei (R-NV) told the Reno Gazette Journal in an interview that such a pathway to citizenship is not “amnesty” for the 11 million undocumented immigrants who have to pay hefty penalties and wait a decade to become naturalized.
Amodei is one of several House Republicans to soften their stance on immigration reform this month. Amodei has previously said that immigration reform is a “must do” situation because “the status quo won’t work for anybody.” But the brand of reform he supported was harsh, anti-immigrant measures like the SAFE Act, which allows states and localities to act in the capacity of immigration officials. He also voted to approve an amendment drafted by Rep. Steve King (R-IA) that would halt the deportation ban on undocumented youths.
In his Wednesday remarks, Amodei said he supports an expedited legal pathway for undocumented youths, and citizenship for other undocumented immigrants at the end of ten years after they pass a background check and learn English. Amodei has said that he would not support anything passed out of the Senate, but the bill the Senate passed contains similar provisions imposing a probationary period of more than a decade and an English-language requirement.
Amodei’s softened stance comes at a time when other conservatives may be feeling the pressure from immigration advocacy groups who want them to act on immigration reform. Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK), another congressman from a deeply conservative district, has said at a town hall event that he likewise does not see that earned legalization amounts to “amnesty.”
On a national level, a majority of Republican primary voters support the Senate immigration reform bill. So even though Amodei represents a predominantly conservative district, he explains, “it will be difficult to explain to constituents” if Congress is unable to pass reform. This was especially true when Amodei was sharply criticized in Spanish language attack ads by the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), an influential labor union for voting for King’s amendment.
Amodei sits on the House Judiciary Committee, which plans to schedule talks on immigration reform after the August recess. According to one study, at least 63 percent of Latino voters know at least one undocumented immigrant.