Members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus emerged from a meeting with Speaker John A. Boehner on Wednesday afternoon sticking to their hope that the House could pass a comprehensive immigration bill.
But Boehner’s statement Tuesday that he would only bring a bill to the floor that has the support of the majority of the Republican Conference hovered over the meeting. And despite the CHC members’ expression of optimism, it was clear the path to a comprehensive House bill had become more delicate.
“I felt that it was a frank discussion that needed to be had,” said Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva, D-Ariz., a member of the CHC. “He reiterated that this is something that is going to be a job ahead.”
Asked whether the Ohio Republican’s insistence on sticking to the “Hastert rule” made that job more difficult, Grijalva answered bluntly: “Yes.”
“Like we told the speaker, we’re willing to help, we’re willing to continue to talk, but the path to legalization, to us, is essential,” he said. “We’ve compromised a lot on security. We’ve compromised a lot on length of time. We’ve compromised on other areas in there, and it’s getting to the point where you go from, you know, ensuring security to a spirit of meanness, and we’re not gonna go there.”
Grijalva pointed to a recent House floor vote on an amendment offered by Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, as an example of the roadblocks ahead for securing Democratic interests in a comprehensive immigration overhaul.
King’s amendment to the fiscal 2014 Homeland Security appropriations bill, which passed, would block implementation of a 2012 Obama administration policy halting deportation of young undocumented immigrants brought to the country as children.
The CHC, in a statement issued after the meeting with the speaker, echoed Grijalva’s comments: It made clear it would not accept anything that did not grant “a pathway to earned citizenship that is tough but fair” to most of the 11 million undocumented immigrants in the country.
“It’s going to have to include very strong border security to bring some of their people in, just as it’s going to have to include on our side the reasonable understanding that 11 million or more of the men and women who produce most of the food we consume and do most of the hard labor in this nation are part of the solution,” said Rep. Joe Garcia, D-Fla., a member of the CHC.
“I left that meeting understanding that there needs to be a majority of Republicans and a majority of Democrats,” the longtime champion of an immigration overhaul said. “We need to come together to do that so that the will of the House of Representatives can be done.”
A bipartisan group of House members has been working for months on a comprehensive bill granting a path to citizenship for many of the 11 million people living in the country illegally while also tightening border security. Members of the group say they have wrapped up their work but have yet to introduce it.
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.