Seven months after the Senate approved a comprehensive reform bill to overhaul the nation’s broken immigration system, House Republican leaders have released a document that outlined a “step-by-step” plan to deal with the undocumented population on Thursday afternoon. Based on a “common-sense approach,” the one-page document calls for strengthened border security measures before undocumented immigrants are able to “live legally and without fear in the U.S.” House Republicans vow that they “will not go to conference with the Senate’s immigration bill” — a bill that would make some undocumented immigrants eligible for eventual citizenship — and also that “there will be no special path to citizenship for individuals who broke our nation’s immigration laws.”
House Republicans are calling for border security first, “zero tolerance policy for those who cross the border illegally or overstay their visas in the future,” an implementation of an entry-exit visa tracking system as well as an electronic employment verification system, reforms to the temporary worker program, and eventual citizenship for undocumented children brought to the country “through no fault of their own.” This last category, so-called DREAMers, must “meet certain eligibility standards, and serve honorably in our military or attain a college degree.” The document also states in part:
There will be no special path to citizenship for individuals who broke our nation’s immigration laws — that would be unfair to those immigrants who have played by the rules and harmful to promoting the rule of law. Rather, these persons could live legally and without fear in the U.S., but only if they were willing to admit their culpability, pass rigorous background checks, pay significant fines and back taxes, develop proficiency in English and American civics, and be able to support themselves and their families (without access to public benefits). Criminal aliens, gang members, and sex offenders and those who do not meet the above requirements will not be eligible for this program. Finally, none of this can happen before specific enforcement triggers have been implemented to fulfill our promise to the American people that from here on, our immigration laws will indeed be enforced.
Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) said that the GOP principles is “certainly not everything we would agree with,” but that Democrats would be open for compromise. It’s a “long hard road, but the door is open.”
Some Republicans are not motivated to support reform for a variety of reasons. Rep. Keith Rothfus (R-PA), for example, said during an open-mic session at the GOP retreat that “immigration isn’t a big issue” in his district. Reform will likely also face resistance among more conservative lawmakers like Rep. Steve King (R-IA).
Still, while it’s promising that House Republicans have released principles, they have not set a legislative timeline to bring a bill to a vote. According to the GOP campaign chief Rep. Greg Walden (R-OR), it’s possible that the earliest that Republicans may move on reform is June because the primaries would have ended by then, but “When you lay out a major policy initiative like immigration, I don’t know when it’s going to appear on the schedule.”