House Panel Takes Up Immigration Bill 06/18 13:28
A key committee in the Republican-led House moved Tuesday toward approving a
tough enforcement-focused immigration bill, over objections from Democrats and
disruptions from protesters shouting "Shame, shame, shame!"
WASHINGTON (AP) -- A key committee in the Republican-led House moved Tuesday
toward approving a tough enforcement-focused immigration bill, over objections
from Democrats and disruptions from protesters shouting "Shame, shame, shame!"
Meanwhile in the Senate, a Republican lawmaker floated a compromise border
security proposal he hopes can win over support for sweeping immigration
legislation under consideration there that opens the door to citizenship for 11
million immigrants now here illegally.
And on a day of fast-paced developments on an issue that is a top priority
for President Barack Obama, House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, moved to quiet
speculation that he might bring the Senate immigration legislation up for a
vote despite opposition from many conservatives in his chamber.
"Any immigration reform bill that is going to go into law ought to have a
majority of both parties' support if we're really serious about making that
happen. And so I don't see any way of bringing an immigration bill to the floor
that doesn't have a majority support of Republicans," Boehner said. He added
that border enforcement would be key for any immigration bill, "And I frankly
think the Senate bill is weak on border security."
As Boehner addressed reporters, the House Judiciary Committee was meeting to
consider a bill, called the Strengthen and Fortify Enforcement Act, by Rep.
Trey Gowdy, R-S.C. It would empower state and local officials to enforce
federal immigration laws, make passport and visa fraud into aggravated felonies
subject to deportation, funnel money into building more detention centers, and
crack down on immigrants suspected of posing dangers.
As soon as Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., gaveled the proceedings
open, more than a dozen protesters who had been seated in the hearing room
stood up and began clapping and chanting, "Shame, shame, shame! More of the
same!" They were ushered out but their cries could still be heard in the
hallway and Goodlatte stopped the proceedings until the protesters had been
Goodlatte said that the bill under consideration --- the first immigration
bill to come to a vote in a House committee this year --- "provides a robust
interior enforcement strategy that will maintain the integrity of our
immigration system for the long term."
But Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., said that "this bill must be opposed, it
would turn millions of undocumented immigrants into criminals overnight." She
predicted mass protests were the bill to become law, along the lines of what
happened in 2006 after the House passed a similarly tough enforcement bill.
The move by the House Judiciary Committee comes less than two weeks after
the full House voted to overturn Obama's 2012 election-year order to stop
deportations of many immigrants brought here illegally as youths.
Together the two moves highlight the challenges ahead in getting a
comprehensive immigration bill through Congress this year, as Obama wants. For
many House conservatives, the priorities when it comes to immigration remain
enforcing the laws and securing the border, not allowing the millions here
illegally to gain legal status or citizenship.
Still, No. 2 House Democratic leader Steny Hoyer of Maryland predicted
Tuesday that if the Senate passes an immigration bill with bipartisan support,
"I think the Republican leadership will be under great pressure to let the
House work its will" --- Capitol Hill jargon for letting the House take up
legislation even without majority support from the majority GOP.
"I think the presidential wing of the Republican Party is absolutely
convinced they need to be for an immigration bill," Hoyer said, saying they
believe they have to "forge some bridge" to the Hispanic community. He added,
"That same motivation does not apply to the congressional wing" of the GOP.
As in the House, border security is at issue in the Democratic-led Senate,
where senators have been jousting over how to strengthen the provisions in a
far-reaching bill being considered on the floor this week to remake the
nation's immigration laws. The bill would allow tens of thousands of high- and
low-skilled workers into the country, and require all employers to check their
workers' legal status. At its heart is a 13-year path to citizenship for people
now here illegally, but that is contingent on certain border security goals
Republican critics say those "triggers" are too weak and have been demanding
amendments to strengthen them. The Senate planned to vote Tuesday on an
amendment by Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., requiring 700 miles of double-layered
border fencing before anyone here illegally could get a permanent resident
A more far-reaching proposal by Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, has been getting
attention, but Democrats and some Republicans have dismissed it as a "poison
pill" because it would require 90 percent of people attempting to cross the
border to be stopped before anyone here illegally could get a permanent
resident green card.
The underlying bill also has the 90 percent figure as a goal, but doesn't
make the path to citizenship directly contingent on achieving it.
Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., told The Associated Press Monday night that he has
been working on an alternative with Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., and others.
Hoeven said his proposal also would require the 90 percent apprehension rate to
be met before immigrants could get green cards. But he said his plan, unlike
Cornyn's amendment, would make the 90 percent rate objective and achievable by
specifying all the equipment and technology the border patrol says it needs to
achieve the rate in each of the nine southwest border sectors, and carefully
tracking attempted crossings.
Hoeven said he hoped to unveil his amendment in the next day or two and said
it could garner the support needed to get bipartisan support for the
"Our effort is to get good legislation that truly secures the border,"
Hoeven said. "That people feel it's fair and it's not amnesty ... so we can get
really a bipartisan consensus."
However, Hoeven's amendment could encounter skepticism from immigrant groups
and Democrats who want to be sure that the bill doesn't change in a way that
makes the path to citizenship harder to achieve.