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Schumer: Start immigration reform in 2017

Trying to box in Republicans, the Democratic senator suggests that Congress pass an overhaul now that takes effect in 2017.
Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) speaks during an event, Jan. 23, 2014 in Washington, DC.
Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) speaks during an event, Jan. 23, 2014 in Washington, DC.

Sen. Chuck Schumer suggested that Congress should pass an immigration overhaul now that won't take effect until 2017.

"Let's enact the law this year, but simply not let it actually start 'til 2017, after President Obama's term is over," Schumer said on NBC's Meet the Press. "I think the rap against him that he actually won't enforce the law is false—he's deported more people than any other president. But you could actually have the law start in 2017 without doing much violence to it."

The New York Democrat's comments come in the wake of an attempt by House GOP Speaker John Boehner to throw cold water on the immigration debate, declaring last week that reform would be unlikely this year given the lack of trust in President Obama to enforce the laws. (Contra Schumer, President Bush deported a larger cumulative number of immigrants during his presidency, but Obama is deporting them at a faster rate.) 

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Schumer's eyebrow-raising remarks aren't likely to become the new Democratic rallying cry. But it's an overt attempt to call Boehner's bluff and continues Democrats' broader defensive strategy to box Republicans in on the issue. In recent weeks, Democrats have said they're willing to consider a piecemeal approach to reform and to negotiate over a pathway to citizenship—both concessions to Republican demands that the party had long said they'd be unwilling to make. 

The House GOP's whiplash on immigration reform has left it uncertain whether Congress will make much, if any, progress on the issue this year. Boehner's shift took immigration advocates aback, particularly as they came just days after the House GOP released a broad framework for reform.

While Democrats like Schumer are trying to make Republicans offers they can't refuse, outside conservative groups are warning the GOP not to be fooled. "Schumer's delayed implementation of #amnesty sounds a lot like the delayed implementation of #obamacare," tweeted Heritage Action spokesman Dan Holler.