Little chance of early US immigration law

Washington | Updated: Jul 13 2013, 09:32am hrs
The Republican-led US House will delay consideration of immigration Bills until this fall, diminishing the chances that President Barack Obama will sign his top domestic priority into law by years end.

House Republicans decision to act in a piecemeal fashion, instead of on one comprehensive immigration Bill, points to a drawn-out process that may spill into the 2014 midterm election season and jeopardise final negotiations.

Its a long and winding road till we actually get to a final product, Representative Tom Cole, an Oklahoma Republican, said.

Democrats say that if Congress doesnt agree on legislation by the end of the year, an immigration-law revision may fall by the wayside.

Its unlikely that its going to happen in an election year, House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi of California said in Washington.

The House is starting to assemble its strategy for a rewrite of immigration laws almost six months after the Democratic-led Senate began talks and two weeks after the Senate passed its broad plan.

The Senate Bill, S. 744, combines a path to citizenship for 11 million unregistered immigrants already in the US with a $46 billion border-security plan. While 14 Senate Republicans joined Democrats in passing the Bill, many Republicans oppose the citizenship path.

We are not going to do the Senate bill, House Speaker John Boehner, an Ohio Republican, told reporters. I have said this since May the 23rd.

After a private two-hour meeting on July 10, House Republicans reaffirmed their plan to handle immigration legislation through individual Bills, acting first to strengthen border security before addressing other issues.

Securing our borders and having the ability to enforce our immigration laws are the first big steps in this process, Boehner told reporters.

Action in July is 100% unlikely, Representative John Fleming, a Louisiana Republican, said after the meeting.

Boehner wouldnt say whether he thought the House could pass legislation, including a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants. Democrats say such a provision must be part of any immigration plan.

Obama has said he wants to sign the immigration legislation by the end of this year. The issue is his highest domestic priority thus far in his second term, after he won 71% of the Hispanic vote in November. Republicans, in turn, want to boost their partys appeal with Hispanics after 2012 presidential nominee Mitt Romney promoted self-deportation as the answer to illegal immigration.

If Republicans dont act on immigration, they do so at their own peril because they havent learned the lesson of Nov. 6, Representative Jose Serrano, a New York Democrat, said in an interview.

Border security and a path to citizenship constitute the obstacle for House and Senate negotiators to figure out, said Representative Tom Rooney, a Florida Republican.

Theres going to be the fight, and whether or not youre actually going to have immigration reform will lie therein, Rooney said.

Chris Van Hollen, a Maryland Democrat, said Republicans will be persuaded to act only if they are pressed by grassroots supporters in their districts.

They have to be hearing from their local business communities; they have to be hearing from different faith groUS Van Hollen said in an interview. Nothing we say is going to motivate them to action.

Representative Trey Gowdy, a leading Republican on immigration, voiced optimism that the House would pass a plan, be ready to negotiate with the Senate by year-end, and set the stage for enacting legislation during this session of Congress, which continues through 2014.

I dont know anyone who doesnt think the current system is broken, Gowdy, chairman of the House Judiciary panels immigration subcommittee, said in an interview on Bloomberg Televisions Political Capital with Al Hunt, airing this weekend. So if you think the current system is broken, how can you then fashion an argument that we should do nothing

The president met at the White House with two authors of the bipartisan Senate bill, Arizona Republican John McCain and New York Democrat Charles Schumer. Afterward, both senators said they were encouraged following the July 10 House Republican meeting.

A large percentage of the House realized that doing nothing was not an option, Schumer said. Immigration has a strong future this year in Washington.

McCain said the senators message to colleagUSin the House is we are ready to negotiate.