The Avenue

This Week in Immigration Reform: Preparing for Wednesday’s GOP Meeting

Nicole Prchal Svajlenka

We are headed into a critical week focused around a make-or-break Wednesday meeting of House Republicans on the future of immigration reform. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor is ready to take up immigration-related legislation, circulating a memo saying “The House may begin consideration of the border security measures that have been passed by the Homeland Security and Judiciary Committees and begin reviewing other immigration proposals.” The “Gang of Seven” is still hoping to introduce a comprehensive bill; the House is still planning to “do [its] own thing.” Relatedly, piecemeal supporter Rep. Bob Goodlatte announced he may be willing to include a pathway to citizenship for DREAM Act-eligible young people at a town hall meeting last week. 

The New York Times lists 11 House Republicans being pursued by “one of the largest coalitions of immigrant, labor and voter groups supporting an immigration overhaul,” and ABC News details tactics that might bring them aboard.

On the Senate side, the Congressional Budget Office released a revised estimate of future illegal immigration flows if S.744 became law. With the approved “border surge” amendment, the bill would reduce “future illegal immigration flows by 33 to 50 percent,” an increase from the original estimate of 25 percent.

With Congress in recess last week, there was plenty of opportunity to hear from other notable figures about their support or opposition to current immigration reform efforts. On the right, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker announced his backing for a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, former President George W. Bush lauded the Senate’s bill, and Rush Limbaugh said he thinks his party is paying too much attention to immigration. Limbaugh did not address a Latino Decisions poll released last week that found “Latinos would be more likely to vote for a Republican presidential candidate that endorses immigration reform.”

Conservative groups of both persuasions are also gearing up. NumbersUSA is “creat[ing] a citizen army” that will barrage congressional offices with phone calls against reform and the American Action Network will air a television ad on Fox News in support of the Senate’s bill.

While the GOP is split on immigration reform, not all Democrats are for the Senate’s approved “Gang of Eight” bill. As reported by the Houston Chronicle, “Rep. Filemon Vela, who represents a South Texas border district, resigned from the Congressional Hispanic Caucus in protest of the group’s embrace of a Senate immigration bill that contains millions of dollars for drones, fences, and border agents.”

The White House is making its immigration reform campaign a top priority this summer, and President Obama wants a House vote before the August recess

As the House debates how to move forward on immigration issues, states and localities continue to address them. Legislation is being debated in California to “limit who state and local police can hold for deportation,” while Virginia’s Prince William County just extended its agreement with the federal government to allowing police officers to check immigration status, and the District of Columbia is considering allowing “immigrants living in the District illegally […] to apply for a driver’s license indistinguishable from those issued to legal residents.”