Sen. Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., said after a meeting with House Democrats Tuesday that there is "great unity" around providing a path to citizenship as part of any House immigration overhaul effort.
Democratic members of the bipartisan Senate "gang of eight" met with the House Democratic Caucus to discuss the legislation, which is expected to have serious difficulties clearing the Republican-controlled House.
Conservatives have expressed reservations about approving a pathway to citizenship, no matter how prolonged or regulated. But Schumer said House Democrats will not back a bill without a pathway, even if that seems like the only way to get something passed in the House and to a conference committee with the Senate. The Senate approved its immigration framework last month, 68-32.
"Bring other things up to the floor but don't expect us to be helpful if there's no path of citizenship also brought up to the floor," Schumer told reporters after the meeting. "The bottom line, in my opinion and I think the opinion of the entire caucus, is that without a path to citizenship, they'll go to conference and say, 'Well, take our bill without a path to citizenship.' There's got to be a path to citizenship and I don't think you can get Democrats to vote for things without a path to citizenship. It was our bottom line from the beginning.
"We're not abandoning that, House or Senate," Schumer continued. "We had great unity in this meeting. ... Everyone agreed."
House Republicans are scheduled to meet as as conference on Wednesday to discuss their strategy for immigration legislation.
Fourteen Senate Republicans voted to approve that chamber's immigration measure — including a pathway to citizenship — but Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, said this week the House will not approve any legalization process without enhanced border security first. The Senate-approved bill included an amendment that boosted border security by an additional $38 billion. It's unclear what kind of security provisions would satisfy a caucus that does not seem to want to endorse legalization for undocumented immigrants at all.