Passing immigration reform is fast gaining momentum among House Republican leaders after Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) announced on Thursday that he would begin drafting an one-page “standards or principles document” to deal with the 11.7 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States. Soon afterwards, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) and House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) came out with strong statements intended to “galvanize” House Republicans to act on immigration reform this year. Neither of the leaders indicated in their statements whether they would support a pathway to citizenship (a key Democrat ask), or even whether the issue of legalization would be taken up alongside border security measures, which they have always stated must be taken up first.
During a House floor exchange with House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD) on Friday morning, Cantor said that “immigration reform could be an economic boon to this country,” particularly voicing support for a measure that would likely grant legal status for undocumented immigrants brought to the country as children. He also said that border security measures needed to be put in place first:
Immigration reform could be an economic boon to this country. We’ve got to do it right … and along those lines, the Speaker has said we are going to look for the release of a list of principles of our position … of what we believe is an appropriate path forward for immigration reform.
[…] As the gentleman knows, I have been a strong proponent of the Kids Act, working with the Chairman of the Committee on it because all of us can agree that we shouldn’t hold kids accountable for the misdeeds or illegal acts of their parents.
There are plenty of things like that, like strong border security, and making sure that occurs first so that we won’t see a continuing problem of illegal immigration … Hopefully we can see after the release of a set of principles that there can be a productive discussions bipartisan with the White House so that it is not ‘my way or the highway’ so that we can see a proper way forward.
At the same time, Goodlatte said in a soon-to-be aired weekend interview on the Spanish-language Telemundo channel, that there was “no reason why we can’t also have an agreement that shows how people who are not lawfully here can be able to be lawfully here,” according to transcript obtained by Politico. Goodlatte also wants to see “three pillars” in the reform bill that focus on border security, ensures that the legal immigration system works, and would likely grant legal status to undocumented immigrants in the country.
And Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) who initially heralded the landmark Senate immigration bill before backing away from the citizenship and border security provisions, said on Thursday that he would vote for a piecemeal bill.
The latest statement appears to be an about-face for Cantor, who has over the past year been avoiding confrontation with immigration activists and panning immigration reform because “we don’t want a repeat of what’s going on now with Obamacare.”
While Goodlatte has taken a more moderate approach in his statement, just last month, he bashed the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program saying that President Obama “circumvent[ed] Congress when he doesn’t get his way.”
House Republicans have largely stalled on bringing about a legislative solution in recent months. And some House Republicans may still reject a immigration reform bill, regardless of its elements — on Thursday, 16 House Republicans sent a letter to President Obama, refusing to vote on an immigration bill that would provide “amnesty.”