John Boehner: Immigration Principles Are 'Not Amnesty'

03/03/2014 04:51 pm ET | Updated Mar 03, 2014
  • Elise Foley Immigration And Politics Reporter, Huffington Post
Bill Clark via Getty Images

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) flatly rejected on Monday the idea that his proposed immigration reform are "amnesty" -- a word that's considered the kiss of death among Republicans for passing a bill.

“Some want to call it amnesty,” Boehner said in an interview with the Cincinnati Enquirer. "I reject that premise. ... If you come in and plead guilty and pay a fine, that’s not amnesty."

House Republican leadership put forward a set of principles in January for immigration reform, including a contentious proposal that would allow undocumented immigrants to stay in the U.S. and eventually gain legal status if they meet certain criteria. It didn't say they could eventually become citizens -- although it didn't say it would ban them, either -- and gave a long list of requirements for them to stay.

The proposal states that undocumented immigrants wouldn't receive a "special path to citizenship," but "could live legally and without fear in the U.S., but only if they were willing to admit their culpability, pass rigorous background checks, pay significant fines and back taxes, develop proficiency in English and American civics, and be able to support themselves and their families (without access to public benefits)."

Boehner threw immigration reform into doubt just a week after unveiling the principles, saying there might be too much distrust between the GOP and President Barack Obama to pass legislation this year.

The House speaker told the Enquirer that he and Obama agree immigration reform needs to get done, but that the president is "going to have to help us in this process." Boehner did not say how Obama could convince Republicans that he is sincere about wanting to enforce immigration law.

"I told the president I’ll leave that to him," he said.

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