Undocumented immigrants living in the United States will get no special pathway to citizenship under a set of principles proposed by House Republicans Thursday afternoon. Instead, GOP lawmakers in the lower chamber are offering them an opportunity to “live legally without fear,” a copy of the document stated.
“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,” the document read. “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).”
The GOP leadership held a retreat with its members early in the day, seeking to lay out the foundation for what the party would want an overhaul of the immigration system to look like. As well as offering legal status to the undocumented, lawmakers also recommended reforms to legal migration; E-verify (a system that would verify electronically whether someone is eligible for legal employment in the U.S.) and workplace enforcement; and implementation of a “fully functioning” entry-exit tracking system. However, border security and enforcement “must come first,” the principles outlined. Those brought to the country as children will get a chance at “legal residence and citizenship.”
Read the draft below:
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Some advocates who support the GOP’s idea of reform have called the Republicans’ action “a historic breakthrough.”
“The principles are sure to spark a vigorous debate in the House,” said Tamar Jacoby, president of ImmigrationWorks USA. “First reactions will inevitably be mixed. But much of the disagreement is about leadership’s timing and process. Strong voices from across the Republican spectrum agree with the fundamental point -- the nation, and the GOP, need to act on immigration.”
Those on the other side said “it’s about time” House Republicans joined the debate and acknowledge the 11 million without legal papers.
“Now it’s time for them to translate these vague principles into a legislative proposal,” said Frank Sharry from America’s Voice. “Only then will we be able to judge whether House Republicans are serious about meeting our standards: an inclusive path to legal status upfront and an achievable path to citizenship over time. Barring immigrants from citizenship and creating a permanent underclass is inconsistent with who we are as Americans.”
Not everyone’s happy.
“We are concerned the nativists within the Republican Party now control the whip hand on the immigration reform debate,” said Chris Newman, legal director of the National Day Laborer Organizing Network. “The GOP’s principles make clear they continue to seek the criminalization of immigrants and the Arizonification of the country.
“The best way forward is for the President to lead with concrete action,” he added. “A suspension of deportations would galvanize consensus for reform and put the immigrant rights movement into a win-win position.”
The disappointment also stretches to some faith-based organizations. Members of the director of PICO National Network’s Campaign for Citizenship, issued a release, stating that the Republican principles “fall far short of the earned pathway to citizenship” they have been fighting for.
“As people of faith, we are standing firmly behind a pathway to citizenship because no one deserves second-class status,” the release read. “Citizenship is the only solution that is consistent with the values of our faith and our country. We firmly believe that a pathway to citizenship is the only option that recognizes the dignity of the 11 million and provides a permanent solution to our country’s broken immigration system.”
The nation’s largest federation of unions, AFL-CIO, also brushed off the principles. “Seven months after 68 Senators overwhelmingly passed a bipartisan immigration bill, House Republicans respond with a flimsy document that only serves to underscore the callous attitude Republicans have toward our nation’s immigrants,” said AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka. He said such “Half-measures” should not be applauded because they would create a permanent class of non-citizens. “A roadmap to citizenship is vital to protecting working families’ rights and keeping families together,” Trumka said. “Until we create a functioning immigration system with a pathway to citizenship, ruthless employers will continue to exploit low wage workers, pulling down wages for all.”
Some Democratic lawmakers are happy the Republicans are seeking a bipartisan way forward. But focused on stopping deportation, Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill., said citizenship is a part of integrating immigrants into the society.
“The details really matter and I have not seen anything concrete from the Republicans so I am not in a position to say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to anything.”