Republicans and immigration reform

The House Republican leadership is trying to sell their colleagues on a series of broad immigration principles, including a path to legal status for those here illegally.

Politico reports that “Speaker John Boehner’s leadership team introduced the principles at their annual policy retreat here. Top Republicans circulated a tightly held one-page memo titled “standards for immigration reform” toward the tail-end of a day that include strategy conversations about Obamacare, the economy and the national debt.

“In the private meeting where the language was introduced, Boehner (R-Ohio) told Republicans that the standards are “as far as we are willing to go.”

“Nancy Pelosi said yesterday that for her caucus, it is a special path to citizenship or nothing,” Boehner said, according to a source in the room. “If Democrats insist on that, then we are not going to get anywhere this year.” Boehner said the standards represent “a fair, principled way for us to solve this issue.” The strategy marks a shift for House Republicans. In 2013, Boehner’s chamber ignored the bipartisan immigration reform bill passed by the Senate. But toward the end of last year and early this year, Boehner, Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.), Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) began hashing out this approach to rally Republicans toward reform. “It’s important to act on immigration reform because we’re focused on jobs and economic growth, and this is about jobs and growth,” Boehner said in his pitch in the closed meeting. “Reform is also about our national security. The safety and security of our nation depends on our ability to secure our border, enforce our laws, improve channels for legal entry to the country, and identify who is here illegally.”

“Embracing legalization is a modest change for Republican leaders — some of them signaled openness to the idea last year. For a Republican Party that advocated “self-deportation” as recently as 2012, it’s a massive shift. Some Republicans fear of the political fallout from immigration reform, but the proposal suggests GOP leaders are taking the long view: Republicans need to woo the booming Hispanic population to stay relevant. At the private meeting where the proposal was unveiled, lawmakers talked about their distrust that President Barack Obama will enforce the law, according to sources inside of the room. Ryan and Boehner spoke in favor of the effort, but high-profile conservatives like Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.) and Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas) were more suspect of the reform push. “Nobody, even those who want to get this done, trusts the president,” Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.) said in a phone interview Thursday evening. “And I understand it, because I don’t either.”


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