Fate of immigration reform in the hands of the House
By Sylvana Chan
Rep. Steve King’s controversial comment to Newsmax magazine on July 28 is discouraging, to say the least, for advocates of immigration reform. King, a Republican serving Iowa’s 4th congressional district, has been a frontrunner in the fight against immigration reform.
“For everyone who’s a valedictorian, there’s another 100 out there who weigh 130 pounds — and they’ve got calves the size of cantaloupes because they’re hauling 75 pounds of marijuana across the desert,” King said.
Speaker of the House John Boehner and other Republicans were quick to distance themselves from King’s remarks, asserting that the comments are “deeply offensive” and represent an extreme opinion coming from marginalized fringes of the party. Rep. Raúl Labrador of Idaho, a champion of the GOP immigration agenda, has condemned the statement as “being out of touch with the Republican conference.”
The debate surrounding King’s remarks mirror some of the larger issues surrounding immigration reform. After the Senate passed their landmark immigration overhaul June 27, the fate of immigration reform has been cast into the hands of House members.
Mass. U.S. Rep. Mike Capuano, a Democrat, voiced some of the fears surrounding immigration reform’s unlikely future. “It’s unlikely the House will take up the Senate bill as passed,” he said. House leadership will likely “introduce portions of the Senate bill in a piecemeal approach that may not satisfy many supporters of comprehensive reform.”
Indeed, Republican Rep. Paul Ryan from Wisconsin echoes GOP plans to push for changes through a series of smaller bills, as opposed to the single, large one the Senate passed. The House legislation would focus on similar issues like border security, workplace verification, visas for agricultural and skilled workers, and a pathway to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States.
“A lot of people are saying, just pass the Senate bill,” Ryan said. “That’s not what the House is going to do… I think we can make it better.”
Some Republicans on Capitol Hill predict comprehensive immigration reform will “die a slow, months-long death in the House,” wrote Mike Allen and Jim Vandehei at Politico. They point to King’s later commentary — that immigration reform would only help “elites who want cheap labor, Democratic power brokers and those who hire illegal labor” — as evidence that such thoughts remain pervasive in the GOP.
Capuano also feared immigration reform will end up on the ash heap of history. Yet he remained hopeful the “House will also pass comprehensive immigration reform and do it quickly.”
Whatever the outcome, one thing is clear: immigration is a real problem for millions of people in the United States and will remain a problem if continued efforts to reform the system are put on the backburner.
“The United States has historically been a beacon of hope to the world, enriched by the talent and energy of those who sought refuge here,” Capuano said. “We need a balanced and thoughtful immigration policy.”
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