A bipartisan House working group on immigration is preparing to unveil a plan as early as next week, when Congress returns from its spring recess. With the Senate’s Gang of Eight also set to present comprehensive immigration legislation, House Republicans remain the biggest obstacle to getting a final deal done. Democratic Congressman Adam Schiff (Calif.) and Republican Congressman Luke Messer (Ind.) agreed Monday that a pathway to citizenship for the nation’s 11 million undocumented immigrants, and a deal on metrics to measure border security are likely to be the biggest challenges to final passage.
Up until the 2012 election, Schiff said, immigration was “the real third rail of American politics…. It’s difficult for me to see us getting the Senate bill or something like it through the House unless the Speaker deviates from the so-called Hastert rule.” Under the rule named for former Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.), the Speaker will not bring a bill to the floor unless it has the support of a majority of the majority, in this case the majority of the Republican conference. House Speaker John Boehner has broken the rule three times this Congress on bills that passed the Senate with strong support: the fiscal cliff deal, a Sandy disaster aid bill and the Violence Against Women Act. Messer said the success of immigration reform depends on a similarly big Senate vote, “If you see a bill come out of the Senate with a broad consensus, there’s an opportunity in the House.”
The two disagreed on the details of a pathway to citizenship, though both ultimately support it. Messer said, “The real question is the length of time. I think most are starting to recognize that we need to get people out of the shadows and have a working guest-worker process, but I think there’s a big disagreement right now on whether that path to citizenship is going to be five years or ten years or more.” Schiff said ten years “is a lot longer than I would like to see and I think most Democrats would like to see. At the same time, we want comprehensive immigration reform, and I know there are going to be things in the House package certainly, in the Senate package …. that I don’t like and that many Democrats don’t like, but we need to bring …. these 11 million folks out of the shadows, and have them put on a path to citizenship and this is going to be part of the give and take.”