POLITICS

House Immigration Group Says Talks Are Moving Forward

04/17/2013 10:00 am 10:00:22

WASHINGTON -- House members in a secretive group working on immigration reform made their first joint public statement on Wednesday, praising the Senate "gang of eight" bill and promising to have their deal soon.

The group, which has remained quiet about its plans and negotiations, is comprised of Democratic Reps. Xavier Becerra (Calif.), Luis Gutierrez (Ill.), Zoe Lofgren (Calif.) and John Yarmuth (Ky.), along with Republican Reps. John Carter (Texas), Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.), Sam Johnson (R-Texas) and Raul Labrador (R-Idaho).

"We believe we will soon agree on a reasonable, common-sense plan to finally secure our borders and strengthen our economy, with a tough but fair process that respects the rule of law so immigrants can contribute to our country," they said in a statement.

Early Wednesday morning the Senate group of four Democrats and House Republicans put out the full text of its bill, the "Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act." It will be discussed in hearings on Friday and Monday in the Senate Judiciary Committee, and supporters hope to see it passed quickly while still going through a normal process to give other lawmakers a chance to review and amend it.

Such a bill, which provides a path to citizenship, may be a tougher haul in the House, where a number of Republicans view legalization as "amnesty."

But members of the House immigration group believe that they, at least, can come to a deal. The full statement:

Americans want to see the nation’s broken immigration system fixed, and they know it will take bipartisanship to solve this problem in a sensible and rational way. This week, a bipartisan group of Senators stepped forward to introduce their proposal, and we applaud their effort. We are also working on a good faith, bipartisan effort in the House. We believe we will soon agree on a reasonable, common-sense plan to finally secure our borders and strengthen our economy, with a tough but fair process that respects the rule of law so immigrants can contribute to our country. While we have made substantial progress, we continue to work diligently towards a bill that keeps America strong, competitive and true to our values.

Members of the group have declined to talk about their timeline -- with many of them at first refusing to acknowledge the group at all -- or specifics of their negotiations, but most argue for a pathway to citizenship along with stricter border protections and enforcement.

While most of the House immigration group members favor a comprehensive approach, Labrador has said he is open to breaking the bill into pieces so long as each component gets a vote, either within a day or within a week.

"It should be in the same week at least, so people know what's going to be voted on, so you know that you have a series of bills that are going to be going on that week. And it should be done, obviously, in the right sequence so there's assurance for both Republicans and Democrats that things that are important to them are going to be addressed," Labrador told reporters on Tuesday. "Or it could be done on the same day."

HuffPost's Jon Ward reported on Tuesday that House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) is considering a piecemeal approach at the urging of Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) and other influential Republicans.

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