Updated: 3:53 p.m.
Speaker John Boehner today rejected the idea that an immigration measure being touted by Sen. Marco Rubio could be enacted into law this year.
The Ohio Republican said he has spoken with Rubio about a proposal the Florida Republican’s office calls an alternative to Democrats’ DREAM Act.
“There’s always hope,” Boehner said. “But the problem with this issue is we’re operating in a very hostile political environment and to deal with a very difficult issue like this I think it would be difficult at best.”
The goal of the DREAM Act is to allow illegal immigrant children to stay in the United States if they go to college or join the U.S. military. While the Democratic plan would provide a path to citizenship, Rubio reportedly would simply provide visas for illegal immigrant children to stay for college or military service.
Sen. Charles Schumer released a statement after Boehner’s remarks, saying that they show Republicans are unwilling to take up immigration reform.
“Speaker Boehner’s comments show how far Senator Rubio has to go in trying to gain Republican support for any proposal to help immigrant students,” the New York Democrat said. “Senator Rubio should be commended for trying to advance the conversation, but he is likely to find his party unwilling to abandon its hardline, anti-immigrant stance.”
Besides talking to Boehner, Rubio has been reaching across the aisle on his plan as well. On Wednesday, he met with Democratic leaders in the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.
The group’s chairman, Rep. Charlie Gonzalez (Texas), said he invited Rubio to meet with the group after Rubio called for a compassionate approach to immigration reform at the Hispanic Leadership Network conference in January.
But in the meeting, also attended by Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) and Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.), Rubio said he was still fleshing out the details. Because of that, Gonzalez said, he still has questions before he can endorse the plan. He said he’s waiting for Rubio to secure votes in the Senate and come back with legislative language.
“It’s all going to be determined by the specifics of the bill,” he said, adding that he told Rubio, “Let us know the details as soon as possible because you know we’re going to have a heck of an internal discussion.”
Gonzalez said the lack of a pathway to citizenship could be a deal-breaker, but he is waiting to see if Rubio proposes another way immigrants can become citizens.
“Is there going to be a pathway to earned citizenship, which is very important to us?” he said. “I’m not sure that, if not given the structure or pathway given in our bill, that there would not be some other avenue to achieve citizenship.”
Gonzalez said the group has also invited former Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.), former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R) and others, but they have yet to take up the offer.
Rubio has also talked to DREAM Act author Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) about his plans.