There’s no sense of urgency by House Republicans to quickly pass a comprehensive immigration reform bill, because there’s no public outcry as yet -- and business and religious groups are just as divided as lawmakers.
At least that’s the sentiment being passed on by Republican lawmakers who have met with those groups.
“The faith community is divided on this issue as well,” Rep. James Lankfor, R-Okla., told the Hill. He added that business groups are divided over the flow of future immigrants and a guest worker program.
The Senate passed its comprehensive immigration reform bill last week, with a solid 68-32 vote. It was the result of bipartisan negotiations with the pro-business Chamber of Commerce and the AFL-CIO, the largest federation of trade unions in the U.S., working to find common ground on issues such as admitting foreign workers.
Now all eyes are looking at the House, where immigration reform advocates are hoping members will follow suit with a plan that also provides a path to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants currently in the country.
“Speaker John Boehner and his leadership team face a decision that will have ramifications for a generation: Block a roadmap to citizenship vote, obstruct the will of overwhelming majorities of working people and face a generation of electoral decline -- or support citizenship and embrace America’s diverse future,” AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said last week.
But Boehner, a Republican from Ohio, is refusing to bring the Senate’s version of an immigration reform bill to the House floor for a vote. He is also in no hurry. the Republican conference will hold a special meeting on Wednesday. A bipartisan group in the House has been working on a comprehensive bill but is yet to produce it. So far, the House has begun working on single-issue bills that deal with border security, interior enforcement and guest worker programs.
“If immigration reform is going to work, it’s essential that the American people have the confidence that it’s being done correctly,” Boehner said last week. “That’s how the House will approach this issue.”
Despite the tough talk, Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill., and a member of the House Gang of Seven, whose bipartisan work for immigration reform mirrors the Senate's Gang of Eight, believes Boehner will compromise. He told MSNBC earlier this week that a majority of the House is ready to vote on reform, especially dozens in the Republican caucus.
“Boehner is not the kind of -- how would I say it -- ideological guys,” Gutierrez said. “He’s not a very ideological person when it comes to pushing. He wants to reach a consensus, I believe that about him, and he’s in a quandary right now with a majority of his party that doesn’t want him to allow a vote for comprehensive immigration reform.”
Gutierrez said there will be a vote in the House on comprehensive immigration reform, because the bills proposed so far are “the same failed policies of the past.” Democrats have argued that the interior enforcement bill passed by the House Judiciary Committee known as the SAFE Act would instantly criminalize the 11 million undocumented people living in America and lead to profiling.
“If they want to be a party of localities, of provinces and maybe some states, then don’t allow a vote,” he added. “They will never be a national party ever again.”