07/02/2013 09:26 am ET

House Immigration Reform Efforts Explained


After a historic vote to pass the Gang of Eight’s immigration reform bill in the Senate last week, the attention now shifts to the House of Representatives, where the bill’s prospects are uncertain. We take a look at what lies ahead in the House for immigration reform.

What are the chances of passing the Senate immigration bill in the House?

Simply put, the chances are slim. That’s because the battlefield for immigration reform is much more challenging in the Republican-controlled House than in the Senate, where Democrats hold a majority.

Last week, several House Republicans said the Senate immigration reform bill is “dead on arrival” in the House. They said it is mostly because the bill is weak on border security and it rewards undocumented immigrants by allowing them to become U.S. citizens. It also has to do with many House Republicans favoring a piecemeal approach to immigration reform, rather than a comprehensive approach. But House Democrats and pro-immigration reform advocates warned that if House Republicans don’t get behind efforts to pass immigration reform legislation, the GOP could be digging a deeper hole for themselves with Latino voters.

Has an immigration reform bill been introduced in the House?

Not yet. There is a bipartisan group of seven House members who have been writing their own immigration reform bill, and they are on the verge of introducing it.

The House members working on the bill include: Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.), Xavier Becerra (D-Calif.), Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.), John Carter (R-Tex.), Sam Johnson (R-Tex), Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) and John Yarmuth (D-Ky.). The bipartisan group originally consisted of eight House members until Rep. Raul Labrador (R-Idaho) left the group last month when members couldn’t decide on how to handle the health care costs of undocumented immigrants. The bipartisan group had planned to release the bill in June but that didn’t happen. Now, it is expected that they’ll release it sometime this month.

How will the House immigration reform bill compare to the Senate’s?

Very little is known of what could be included in the House bipartisan group’s immigration reform bill, but it is likely that the bill will have a greater focus on border security than the Senate bill. It could even go as far as requiring certain border security measures to be in place before undocumented immigrants can begin the process toward gaining legal status. The House immigration reform bill is also likely to include a path to citizenship for most of the 11 million undocumented immigrants currently living in the United States, just like the Senate bill. But many House Republicans — including House Judiciary Committee Chairman Rep. Bob Goodlatte of Virginia — oppose that idea.

Has the House taken any action on immigration reform?

Yes. The House Judiciary Committee got the ball rolling on immigration reform last month with its first markup of an enforcement-centered bill known as the SAFE Act, which stands for Strengthen and Fortify Enforcement Act. Committee members approved the bill June 19 with a 20-15 party-line vote.

The bill would permit states to enact and enforce their own immigration laws, as well as allow local police officers to assist in the enforcement of federal immigration law. It also includes an amendment that would make an unlawful presence in the U.S. a federal crime.

Most recently, the House Judiciary Committee approved a bill to require employers to check the work eligibility of all future hires though the E-Verify system. It also approved a bill to create a new temporary agricultural guest worker program and another bill focused on giving out green cards and visas to high-skilled foreign workers.

Why is July 10 a big deal for immigration reform?

A major test for immigration reform will come July 10. That’s the day the House Republican Conference will meet in the Capitol basement to discuss what to do with the Senate-approved immigration reform bill.

House Republicans attending the meeting will have just returned from the 4th of July recess, during which they went home and likely heard from constituents regarding their reaction to the Senate immigration bill. The meeting could conclude with the GOP deciding on one of three paths the House can take to address immigration reform: continue considering individual immigration bills through the piecemeal approach, take up the immigration reform bill crafted by the House bipartisan group or take up the Senate immigration bill.

Originally published on VOXXI as A guide to understanding immigration reform efforts in the House



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