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An immigration overhaul — the most significant plank in President Barack Obama’s agenda that could see congressional action — faces its most perilous hurdle in the House.
Though many of the GOP’s power brokers in Washington, D.C., are on board, thinking that it could help Republicans make electoral inroads with Hispanic voters, the issue has proved volatile at the grass-roots level in the past.
However, since a bipartisan group of senators released an immigration framework in late January, there has been no significant backlash from the right. To the contrary, there are surprising signs of openness from key GOP lawmakers.
House leadership will obviously play an important role in how, or whether, actual legislation moves forward, as it does on any bill. But unlike most issues, the immigration landscape is surprisingly complicated. A secretive bipartisan working group is “on the cusp” of a deal, according to one of its participants. Meanwhile, a cautious, conservative Judiciary Committee chairman has been staying under the radar.
Republicans in the group include Reps. Mario Diaz-Balart of Florida, John Carter of Texas, Raúl R. Labrador of Idaho and Sam Johnson of Texas. Democrats include Reps. Luis V. Gutierrez of Illinois, Xavier Becerra of California and Zoe Lofgren of California.
While members of the group have touted its progress, House GOP leadership has been sending signals that it is interested in smaller bore legislation. For instance, Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia indicated in a rebranding effort that he would support passing the DREAM Act designed to allow illegal immigrants brought to the U.S. by their parents to become citizens.
As the debate unfolds, here are five House Republicans who will prove important to whether an immigration bill gets through the chamber.Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, Fla.
A member of the moderate Republican Main Street Partnership group, Diaz-Balart sees his job as moving Republicans to the left. He is a longtime participant in the secretive House immigration working group, and members describe his role as talking conservatives off the ledge.
Diaz-Balart comes from a famous Cuban family and represents a Hispanic-majority district in the sprawling suburbs northwest of Miami. Elected in 2002, he is a founding member of the Congressional Hispanic Conference.
Unlike Rep. Raúl R. Labrador, Diaz-Balart praised the Senate bipartisan group’s principles as “compatible” with “discussions in the House.” But he has also sounded hawkish on securing the border in recent comments, and he is vowing not to repeat the experience of 1986, when Congress granted amnesty for millions of undocumented immigrants only to find millions more arriving in subsequent years.Rep. Robert W. Goodlatte, Va.