In an early indication of the momentum that is likely to build during the August recess, some House Republicans are softening their stance for an earned pathway to legalization for millions of undocumented immigrants. In recent days, four House Republicans came out in favor of giving legal status to 11 million undocumented immigrants.
At town hall meetings across the country, House Republicans may confront immigration advocates and opponents alike. Some Republicans like Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), Reps. Daniel Webster (R-FL), Aaron Schock (R-IL), and Dave Reichert (R-WA) are taking a cautious, but supportive approach to immigration reform.
The third highest ranking member of the House, Majority Whip McCarthy came out in favor of legal status for the millions of undocumented immigrants on Wednesday. While he supported a guest worker program, he remained noncommittal towards a pathway to citizenship.
He voiced his support for so-called DREAMers, or undocumented immigrants brought to the country as children. He said, “I personally believe if you came here as a child, that’s different…this is your country. You have no other place to go to.”
Within the past few days, Reps. Webster, Schock, and Reichert similarly came out in support of an earned pathway to citizenship. At a town hall meeting, Webster announced last Friday that he supported a pathway to citizenship pending stringent border security measures — policies that parallel components in the Senate’s immigration bill. Schock similarly echoed Webster’s sentiments on Wednesday saying that it would be “disruptive to our economy” to deport undocumented immigrants. Reichert strongly vouched for an earned pathway to citizenship during a radio interview on Wednesday.
During the radio interview, Reichert blasted a Heritage Foundation report indicating that reform would cost trillions. He said, “Heritage…was so far off that they had to actually fire the guy that came up with the statistics on that. But if we can get these people to in this country working legally, they have to pay income tax. And they help to support, they help buy homes and help to generate the economy a little bit.”
Even as House Republicans are starting to come around on immigration reform, the two highest ranking House members, Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) and House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) are less enthused. Cantor has refused to comment on supporting a pathway to citizenship saying that the House will “have a vote on a series of bills at some point.” He has only so far come out in support for legalizing the same kind of undocumented youths alluded to by McCarthy. House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) has demurred on his own position, saying he would not bring up an immigration bill without the support of a majority of House Republicans.
As House members return to their home states to face their constituents during the August recess, they may face pointed questions and grassroots pressure on immigration. By some estimates, about two-thirds of Republican primary voters support a bill that provides a pathway to citizenship and includes a set of border security provisions. Some conservative Evangelical and business groups have also come out in support of reform.
As proof of how House Republicans are already reaping the benefit of supporting reform early on, immigration advocates flooded Peter King’s (R-NY) office to thank him for supporting a pathway to citizenship.