It remains to be seen how far House Republicans will go during the lame duck to find common ground with Democrats on these family-related immigration initiatives.
One plan would allow the spouses and children of current holders of green cards to move to the United States without a work authorization until they get green cards of their own, according to lobbyists. Current rules force many families to live apart for several years while they await visas. Another proposal would split the 55,000 visas, with half going to high-tech foreign graduates and half to family reunification measures.
But even if the House is able to pass a bipartisan high-tech visa bill, there is no guarantee that it will lead to more immigration action. The all-consuming fiscal cliff fight is sure to cause bad feelings that could be hard to soothe.
House conservatives might also try to stop leadership efforts to reach out to Democrats. Boehner has already retreated from his Nov. 8 statement, in an ABC News interview, that “a comprehensive approach is long overdue” on immigration. The next day, he endorsed the more incremental approach.
Rep. John Fleming, R-La., chastised Boehner after his ABC interview for “getting ahead of House Republicans when he commits to getting a ‘comprehensive approach’ to immigration.”
Rep. Raúl R. Labrador, R-Idaho, a former immigration attorney who won his seat in 2010 with tea party backing, plans to introduce a series of narrow immigration bills that he says could get through the House.
“I don’t think there’s any room for a pathway to citizenship, but there is room for us to discuss a pathway for something like legal status,” he said.
Labrador warned, however, that Democrats shouldn’t overreach. “What I hope is that the Democrats don’t misread the election, and they think that what this means is we need a whole amnesty pathway-to-citizenship solution, without them sitting down with the Republicans who want to work on this issue,” he said.