One year after the Senate passed a bipartisan immigration bill, Democrats know the House won’t be following suit any time soon. But they want voters to know exactly who’s behind the failure to pass reform this year.
“If something is not done by the Republican dominated House of Republicans during the month of July, the sole blame – without any condition or suggestion of minimization – would be that the Republicans are the reason that we have been unable to do immigration reform,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said in a joint press conference with Democratic senators and House members.Republicans dismissed the Senate’s bill almost as soon as it was passed, but they have yet to bring forward any significant legislation of their own as a counteroffer. Newly elected minority leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said this week that they would only address the issue when they felt the border was secure, a vague standard that Republicans have used often to explain their legislative inaction.
“We said just do it any way you want, but bring a bill to the floor, give us a vote,” Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said at the press conference.
Speaker John Boehner released a set of principles in January that included legal status for undocumented immigrants, but only a handful of members embraced it and he quickly dropped the issue, citing his party’s distrust of President Obama. It didn’t help that the next highest ranked Republican leader, Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.), was defeated this month by a tea party challenge on a crusade against “amnesty.”
As Democrats made clear in their remarks, the party is preparing to transition from legislative negotiations to electoral warfare. While the GOP is well positioned for 2014, Republican strategists are concerned that they’ll be unable to retake the White House in 2016 without eating into Democrats’ huge advantage with Hispanic and Asian voters.
“Republicans know that if the House does not pass immigration reform they’ll be handing the House, the presidency, the Senate, to Democrats in 2016 and we will write our own bill in 2017 and it will be a bill less to their liking,” Senator Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) told reporters.
In recent days, top GOP leaders have seized upon a surge of unaccompanied children from Central America at the border to criticize the White House for refusing to deport young undocumented immigrants, commonly known as DREAMers, who have lived in the United States for years.
“Those who do not trust the president because he’s not enforcing current laws say why should we pass new laws when he will not enforce those either?” Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Ohio), chairman of the Judiciary Committee, said in a breakfast meeting with reporters sponsored by the Christian Science Monitor.The Obama administration is currently reviewing its deportation policies. Once it becomes clear that the House GOP is done with reform, Democrats and activists expect the president to announce a revamped set of policies that would likely included broader protections for undocumented immigrants with families in America. A report to Congress obtained by The Huffington Post this week found that Immigration and Customs Enforcement carried out some 72,000 deportations last year of parents who said they had US-born children.
“Speaker Boehner supports efforts to fix our broken immigration system, particularly in light of the humanitarian crisis at our southern border, but it’s tough to make progress when the American people simply don’t trust President Obama to enforce the law as written,” Michael Steel, a spokesman for Boehner, said in an e-mail when asked about the Democrats’ July ultimatum.