Dennis Hastert, the Republican who was Speaker of the House from 1999 to 2007, when the Tea Party wave was still far on the horizon, has a word of advice for today’s GOP: Get immigration reform done.
Hastert, who still has a “Hastert Rule” named after him -- namely, that no legislation should be brought to the House floor without a majority of the GOP vote -- told the Wall Street Journal that an overhaul of the immigration system must contain two things: border security and legal status for the more than 11 million undocumented immigrants who call America home.
“We need to give these people legal status,” he said. “They live here. They work here. They raise families here. We need to recognize that they’re here.”
The former lawmaker is set to make an appearance at a roundtable discussion about building support for “commonsense immigration reform” next Tuesday at the Illinois Business Immigration Coalition. The theme for the event is Immigration Bottom Line: 2014.
Hastert’s comment comes as Republicans are meeting at an annual retreat to talk about the set of broad immigration “principles” they intend to release soon. The informal Hastert rule has been cited by House leadership refusing to allow a comprehensive immigration reform bill proposed by Democrats to make it to the floor. Conservatives widely dislike the Democrats’ legislation because it includes a pathway to citizenship for the undocumented, which they say amounts to amnesty.
But the man for whom the rule was named has said, “There really wasn’t a ‘Hastert Rule.’”
House Republicans like Raul Labrador of Idaho are concerned that proceeding with legislation could split the party, according to The Hill. Georgia Congressman Tom Graves told the same paper, “You can probably look to the Senate to see what [immigration] does to Republican unity. It’s a very divisive issue, a very difficult issue. It’s one that you have to thread very delicately.”
Graves was referring to the Senate vote last June where 14 of the 45 Republicans backed the bipartisan measure.
But while Hastert adds his two cents, other Republican lawmakers have given up hopes of achieving a broad overhaul, not only this year, but while President Barack Obama is in office.
Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., told the Wall Street Journal that because Obama has no credibility, a broad overhaul becomes difficult. While at a WSJ breakfast, the first-term senator said people have been expressing their concern to him on whether the government will enforce the immigration laws.
Their sentiment expressed to the senator is, “‘You can write whatever you want in that bill. But the federal government will not enforce the law.’ As a result, they will just do the legalization part but they won’t do the enforcement part.”