There's no doubt about it. Pressure is building on the House GOP leadership to bring an immigration bill to the floor for a vote -- one that includes a path to earned citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants.
Over the weekend Representative Jeff Denham (R-CA) announced that he would team up with the House Democrats in support of H.R. 15, comprehensive immigration reform legislation which is similar to the immigration overhaul passed by the Senate earlier this year. Denham was the first Republican to publicly join hands with the Democrats but he wasn't alone for long. He was quickly followed by Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) on Tuesday. And just this morning a California news outlet reports that a third Republican, Rep. David Valadao (R-CAL), will likely add his name to the list. These Representatives have now joined hands with 185 Democrats to co-sponsor a plan that would give millions of unauthorized immigrants the chance to attain citizenship.
And this is likely just the beginning. Immigration advocates -- who are fired up and strongly motivated to get immigration reform done this year -- are circulating a list of 28 target House Republicans who have expressed support in the past for a path to citizenship, some of whose districts include a large number of Hispanic voters. If other Republicans follow Denham's and Ros-Lehtinen's lead it will show the country that they are serious about fixing the immigration problem and are willing to work in a bipartisan way.
And all this comes the same week as some 600 conservative leaders from various religious denominations, the agricultural industry, law enforcement, and the business sector have come to Washington to lobby nearly 150 members of Congress for a broad immigration overhaul. These leaders recognize that America's continued economic vitality and future competitiveness require that our immigration policy be brought into the 21st century.
There is no question immigration reform can happen by the end of the year. The votes are there in the House. 218 is the magic number it would take to pass an immigration bill on a majority vote. Last month Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), who serves in the House Democratic leadership, said that there are "at least 200 Democratic votes" in the House for a Senate-like bill. Add the 28 House Republicans who have expressed support for immigration reform and a path to citizenship and real reform can become a reality -- this year.
Let's review. Immigration reform is something an overwhelming majority of Americans support, the Senate has passed a good bipartisan reform bill, and a majority of the House of Representatives would vote to pass a similar bill if given the chance.
In the end it boils down to Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and the House GOP leadership. Will they bow to the extremists and prevent a vote on immigration reform? Or will they do what's right by the American people?