WASHINGTON -- Moderate Democrats working to gather support from Republicans for comprehensive immigration reform sent an ultimatum Friday to Speaker John Boehner: introduce a bill by Sept. 30 or they'll introduce their own.
"[W]e are frustrated that there was not a bipartisan immigration reform bill introduced prior to the August recess," reads the letter from 39 members of the New Democrat Coalition, a 53-member group, including co-chairmen Reps. Joaquín Castro (D-Texas) and Jared Polis (D-Colo.).
"Therefore, we write to inform you that if a bipartisan immigration reform package is not introduced in the House of Representatives -- one that includes a pathway to citizenship, helps grow American jobs, and fixes our immigration system once and for all -- by September 30th, we as New Democrats will consider introducing a comprehensive immigration reform bill," the letter continues. Read the letter here.
Boehner, an Ohio Republican, has said he will not bring up any immigration bill -- particularly the one that passed the Senate in June -- unless a majority of House Republicans support it. Democrats and pro-reform activists think they could get the 218 votes needed for passage of comprehensive immigration reform, if Boehner would allow for a vote, by keeping most Democrats and winning over some Republicans.
Members of Congress leave town Friday for the August recess, a month-long break during which they will hear from constituents. Meanwhile, the clock is ticking closer to primaries and the 2014 election year.
Democrats have said immigration reform should include a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, but many Republicans have said it's a no-go. Instead, House Republicans are pursuing a number of smaller bills, such as border security legislation. Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) and Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) are working on a bill to legalize undocumented young people who came to the U.S. as children, but there aren't GOP-led efforts to deal with their parents. A seven-member bipartisan group in the House is working on comprehensive legislation with a path to citizenship, though it has not yet come to a final agreement on legislative language.
The New Democrat Coalition letter says Boehner "can rely on" its members for support if he brings up a bill with a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.
“We have the support of the American people," it concludes. "We hope we can count on your support."