Immigration reform faces an uphill climb this year, but Speaker John Boehner says the House is still working on its own legislation after abandoning the Senate’s already passed bipartisan plan.
“I still think immigration reform is an important subject that needs to be addressed, and I’m hopeful,” Boehner told reporters on Wednesday when asked about the issue.
House Republicans have yet to release their own proposal to deal with the most controversial elements of immigration reform, mainly what to do about the 11.7 million unauthorized immigrants estimated to be living in America today. But there is movement on the issue: Republican Congressman Mario Diaz Balart, one of the party’s top advocates for reform, told the Wall Street Journal Tuesday he’s been working with other GOP members on a legalization bill. Congressman Darrell Issa of California has also been working on a related proposal. One possible compromise that key Republicans have floated is a bill that offering legal status to qualifying undocumented immigrants that would neither create a path to citizenship for newly legalized immigrants nor bar them from applying through existing channels.
Boehner is caught in a tough spot on immigration. House Republicans complain relations with the White House after their bitter shutdown feud have made the path more difficult. And even in the best of circumstances, immigration advocates have long said they expect many – probably most – Republican members to oppose any meaningful legislation addressing the undocumented. But if Boehner fails to produce a solution, or at least a good faith attempt at one, polls suggest the GOP’s already dismal standing with the growing Latino vote will sink even further, potentially handicapping efforts to win states like Florida and Colorado in 2016.