WASHINGTON -- House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) insisted on Wednesday that even though House Republicans have moved slowly on immigration reform, they're still planning to work on it -- but not by combining their efforts with the already-passed Senate bill.
"The idea that we're going to take up a 1,300-page bill that no one had ever read, which is what the Senate did, is not going to happen in the House," Boehner said at a press conference. "And frankly, I'll make clear: We have no intention of ever going to conference on the Senate bill."
The bipartisan Senate bill passed in June in a 68-32 vote, but was immediately shot down by Boehner, who said he would not hold a vote on anything without majority GOP support. But that was months ago, and long after House Republicans leaders committed to working on immigration reform this year. Bills approved by the House Judiciary Committee, which deals with immigration issues, haven't gone for votes, either.
Democrats and advocates argue that the Senate bill could pass if it went for a vote -- most Democratic members and three GOP members support a bill based on the legislation -- but so far, it doesn't seem likely that the measure will get the chance.
GOP Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) told reform advocates last week that there is no time to hold votes on immigration this year. Boehner said Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) is working with Republicans and Democrats "on a set of principles that will help guide us as we deal with this issue." Boehner did not, however, give a straight answer when asked whether there would be votes this year.
"As we develop the principles, we'll figure out how we're going to move ahead," he said.
Asked whether House Republicans are moving slowly on immigration reform because they want to focus on Obamacare, Boehner insisted that was not the strategy.
"This is about trying to do this in a way that the American people and our members can absorb," he said. "There are hundreds of issues involved in dealing with immigration reform. And we've got to deal with these in a common-sense way, where our members understand what we're doing and their constituents understand."
Boehner said he is still committed to working on immigration reform.
"Let's understand something: I want us to deal with this issue," he said. "But I want to deal with it in a common-sense, step-by-step way."
Young immigration reform advocates approached Boehner earlier Wednesday as he was eating breakfast to tell their families' stories and ask whether he plans to act on immigration.
"I'm trying to find some way to get this thing done," he said, according to video the group posted to YouTube. "But it’s not easy -- not going to be an easy path forward. But I’ve made it clear since the day after the election that it’s time to get this done."
Democrats criticized House Republicans at a hearing on Wednesday for saying they want to work on immigration reform but declining to hold votes.
"If House Republicans oppose comprehensive immigration reform but support a piecemeal approach to fix our broken immigration system, show us," Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) said at a Judiciary Committee hearing. "Do something. ... I believe we are closer today than we have ever been before. But now is not the time for more talk, talk, talk. Now is the time for action."
UPDATE: 2:33 p.m. -- White House Press Secretary Jay Carney responded to Boehner's comments during a press briefing later Wednesday, saying that there is still time for the House to act if it wants to.
"I think it could happen this year," he said. "Obviously, the House is the obstacle or the opportunity, and we, as I said, believe that if there were the will in the House to act quickly and decisively on comprehensive immigration reform, it could be achieved and it would receive a broad bipartisan vote in the affirmative."
He made a small dig, however, at Boehner's mention of efforts now being made to craft principles on immigration reform.
"I think that's a welcome step, but it seems a little bit late in the game to be developing principles on this substantial issue and priority for American businesses, for labor, for faith communities, for law enforcement communities," he said.
Carney added that it would be a good step for the House to hold a vote on the House Democrats' immigration reform bill.
"What the House could do this week was take up its own comprehensive immigration reform bill," he said. "There's one that the House Democrats have put on the table that reflects the president's principles, reflects the principles put forward in the bipartisan Senate bill, and that we strongly believe would pass the House with a substantial majority, including votes from both parties if the speaker were to bring it to the floor for a vote."
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The Naturalization Act of 1790
The Naturalization Act of 1790 was our country's first set of laws dealing with citizenship. Applicants had to be "<a href="http://rs6.loc.gov/cgi-bin/ampage?collId=llsl&fileName=001/llsl001.db&recNum=226 " target="_hplink">a free white person</a>" of "good moral character." This excluded indentured servants and slaves. Good moral character was substantiated by establishing residence for at least one year in the state from where he was applying, and at least two years of residence in the country. The Naturalization Act of 1795 would extend that requirement to five years, and is still standard today.
The Fourteenth Amendment, 1868
A Reconstruction Amendment that was added to the U.S. Constitution following the Civil War, the Citizenship Clause of the 14th Amendment establishes for the first time that children born on U.S. soil would be conferred U.S. citizenship regardless of their parent's citizenship status, race, or place of birth. Last year, Rep. Steve King (R-IA) introduced the <a href="http://www.govtrack.us/congress/bills/112/hr140 " target="_hplink">Birthright Citizenship Act of 2011</a> to Congress, and challenged this. The bill would require that at least one parent be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident for a child to be granted citizenship. According to the <a href="http://www.opencongress.org/bill/112-h140/text " target="_hplink">bill's text</a>, the Birthright Citizenship Act of 2011 would amend the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952, and "clarify those classes of individuals born in the United States who are nationals and citizens of the United States at birth." Prior to this, Rep. Nathan Deal (R-GA) <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/05/26/nathan-deal-georgia-lawma_n_207485.html " target="_hplink">introduced</a> a similar <a href="http://www.opencongress.org/bill/111-h1868/show" target="_hplink">bill</a> in 2009.
The Naturalization Act of 1870
The Naturalization Act of 1870<a href="http://thepoliticsofimmigration.org/pages/chronology.htm " target="_hplink"> explicitly extended</a> naturalization laws to "aliens of African nativity and persons of African descent." This meant that for the first time, African-American children would be conferred citizenship upon birth. Asian immigrants and other people of color are excluded per the Naturalization Acts of 1790 and 1795.
The Page Act of 1875
Named after Republican Representative Horace F. Page, this is the first U.S. federal immigration law to explicitly prohibit the immigration of a particular group: persons of Asian descent. Primarily meant to limit Chinese immigrant labor and prostitution, the Page Act prohibited the immigration of: (1) contracted labor from "China, Japan, or any Oriental country" that was not "free and voluntary," (2) Chinese prostitution and (3) criminals and women who would engage in prostitution. Ultimately, the <a href="http://www.uchastings.edu/racism-race/pageact.html " target="_hplink">Page Act</a> severely <a href="http://immigration-online.org/228-page-act-united-states-1875.html " target="_hplink">restricted</a> the immigration of Asian women. Only 136 of the the nearly 40,000 Chinese immigrants who arrived in the months before the bill's enforcement were women. And, it would pave the way for the Chinese Exclusion Act. In this picture, Michael Lin, chair of the 1882 Project, a coalition of rights groups seeking a statement of regret over that year's Chinese Exclusion Act, speaks on May 26, 2011 in Washington, DC, at the US House of Representatives in front of a reproduction of a 19th-century sign that aimed at rousing up sentiment against Chinese Americans. Lawmakers introduced a bill that would offer an official statement of regret for the act, which banned further immigration of Chinese to the United States and ended citizenship rights for ethnic Chinese. (AFP PHOTO/SHAUN TANDON).
The Chinese Exclusion Act, 1882
Signed by President Chester A. Arthur, the <a href="http://www.pbs.org/weta/thewest/resources/archives/seven/chinxact.htm " target="_hplink">Chinese Exclusion Act</a> was the first federal immigration law to prohibit immigration on the basis of race. The bill barred all Chinese laborers, skilled and unskilled, from immigrating to the U.S. for ten years. It was made permanent by 1903, and was not lifted until the 1943 Magnuson Act. The 1898 Supreme Court <a href="http://ocp.hul.harvard.edu/immigration/exclusion.html " target="_hplink">decision</a> in <em>United States v. Wong Kim Ark</em> finally extended naturalization laws to persons of Chinese descent by ruling that anyone born in the United States was indeed a U.S. citizen. This editorial cartoon from 1882 shows a Chinese man being excluded from entry to the "Golden Gate of Liberty." The sign next to the iron door reads, "Notice--Communist, Nihilist, Socialist, Fenian & Hoodlum welcome. But no admittance to Chinamen." At the bottom, the caption reads, "THE ONLY ONE BARRED OUT. Enlightened American Statesman--'We must draw the line <em>somewhere</em>, you know.'" (Image Source: Frank Leslie's illustrated newspaper, vol. 54 (1882 April 1), p. 96. [Public domain], via <a href="http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:The_only_one_barred_out_cph.3b48680.jpg" target="_hplink">Wikimedia Commons</a>).
The Naturalization Act of 1906
The Naturalization Act of 1906 further <a href="http://www.understandingrace.org/history/gov/eastern_southern_immigration.html" target="_hplink">defined</a> the naturalization process: the ability to speak English was made a <a href="http://www.enotes.com/topic/Naturalization_Act_of_1906" target="_hplink">requisite</a> for immigrants to adjust their status.
The Immigration Act of 1924
U.S. President Coolidge signed this U.S. federal <a href="http://history.state.gov/milestones/1921-1936/ImmigrationAct " target="_hplink">bill</a> into law. It capped the number of immigrants who could be admitted entry to the U.S. and barred immigration of persons who were not eligible for naturalization. And, as the Naturalization Act of 1790 required, an immigrant had to be white in order to naturalize. The quotas varied by country. Image Source: Flickr Creative Commons, <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/nycmarines/6306315902/" target="_hplink">NYCMarines</a>.
The Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952 (The McCarran-Walter Act)
The <a href="https://docs.google.com/viewer?a=v&q=cache:zwaVG82lZisJ:www-rohan.sdsu.edu/dept/polsciwb/brianl/docs/1952McCarranWaltersAct.pdf+&hl=en&gl=us&pid=bl&srcid=ADGEESjEwx76FIBTixZAfyncZz-1CSuSeciv5qB6vvWTrUfW58XRpXq8zkpnI57XSuuG5Bu-WSySGbEhxYvZxP7y6qDQuOsDhgDa6qUqUaJ8F4imTzKJsVtppHc_-eew2dK6vGhoIUZs&sig=AHIEtbTNQ5GFiNMVS-xyThq8VVSj_gG9KA " target="_hplink">McCarran-Walter Act</a> kept up the controversial Immigration Act of 1924, but <a href="http://history.state.gov/milestones/1945-1952/ImmigrationAct" target="_hplink">formally</a> ended Asian exclusion.
Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965
When President Lyndon Johnson signed the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, it <a href="http://library.uwb.edu/guides/USimmigration/1965_immigration_and_nationality_act.html" target="_hplink">abolished</a> the quota system that favored immigration from Europe and limited immigration from Asia and South America.
Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996
The 1996 <a href="http://www.uscis.gov/ilink/docView/PUBLAW/HTML/PUBLAW/0-0-0-10948.html " target="_hplink">Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act</a> (IIRIRA) is a piece of legislation that <a href="http://library.uwb.edu/guides/usimmigration/1996_illegal_immigration_reform_and_immigrant_responsibility_act.html " target="_hplink">defined</a> an array of issues to do with legal and illegal immigration -- from outlining how border patrol agents should administer visa processing, to the minutiae of how to handle deportation proceedings -- IIRIRA established enforcement and patrolling practices.