By Drew MacKenzie
Speaker John Boehner has maintained that House Republicans "by and large" support immigration reform guidelines proposed at the GOP retreat earlier this month. But a Roll Call survey of every GOP House member reveals that only 19 representatives are willing to go on record backing it.
Boehner’s controversial principles include a pathway to legalization for illegal immigrants and a pathway to citizenship for children brought here illegally. But the plan falls short of providing an immediate pathway to citizenship as outlined in the comprehensive Senate bill passed last year.
Roll Call studied recent statements by every GOP member of the House to see if they supported Boehner’s proposals, and found that just 19 backed the leadership’s plans, while two Republicans said "possibly yes."
Thirty Republicans have freely opposed Boehner’s broad initiative, while 22 have not spoken publicly about immigration reform, and another 25 were undecided.
"Given the number of Republicans who declined to answer or wouldn’t give a binary response, it’s possible Republicans see support for the broadly worded principles as a proxy for supporting an immigration overhaul this year," Roll Call’s Matt Fuller said.
"But with such a seeming dearth of support, the likelihood Republicans could move legislation — in this Congress or the next — seems bleak."
Some GOP legislators have gone public with their opposition to the guidelines, notably Rep. Steve King of Iowa, who said undocumented immigrants who are allowed to become citizens will eventually vote for Democrats. "It's political suicide for Republicans to do this," he said.
North Carolina Rep. Walter Jones told Roll Call, "I will oppose any policy that allows individuals who have cheated the system and entered the country illegally to gain citizenship ahead of those who have put in the time and effort to follow the appropriate process."
President Barack Obama said in his State of the Union address that he hoped both sides of Congress would pull together to get immigration reform moved this year.
Roll Call found that the term most often used in its immigration research was "amnesty." And Texas Rep. Michael. Burgess said, "Amnesty by any other name is still amnesty."
The speaker’s main idea is to put forth separate bills, which will also deal with such issues as border security, guest worker rules, and the hiring of illegal immigrants.
Roll Call pointed out that there are enough votes to pass Boehner’s principles if virtually every Democrat supports the proposals, as well. Boehner, however, recently took the immigration overhaul off the table because the GOP does not believe that Obama can be trusted to enforce new immigration laws.
Roll Call showed its GOP vote tally to Boehner’s spokesman Michael Steel, who said that the Ohio congressman’s position remains the same.
"House Republicans by and large support the immigration principles, but members — and the American people — simply don’t trust that the Obama administration will implement any part of immigration reform it doesn’t like or support," Steel said, adding, "It is going to be difficult to move any immigration legislation."
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