CHC Still Divided on Immigration Bill

Posted July 17, 2007 at 6:16pm

Though still committed to seeing an immigration reform measure moved before the end of the year, members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus are now divided over how to proceed — and how much to pursue — in the weeks following a Senate meltdown on a comprehensive package.

According to those in attendance at a Tuesday morning CHC meeting scheduled specifically to discuss the future of immigration legislation, discussions were congenial but showed clear divisions among lawmakers over whether a comprehensive bill remains viable in the House, and if not, what measures could be moved individually or in small groups.

“Everybody wants to freelance at this point. And that’s not the answer,” said Rep. Joe Baca (D-Calif.), the group’s chairman. Although the caucus planned to vote to gauge support for specific options, that action was scratched in light of the ongoing discussion.

“We can’t be divided. We’ve got to be united,” said Baca, who is opposed to pursuing the bill in a piecemeal fashion.

Among the legislation backed by CHC members is the bipartisan Security Through Regularized Immigration and a Vibrant Economy Act, introduced earlier this year by Reps. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) and Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.). But lawmakers also see narrower measures such as the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act — a measure that would provide a path to permanent resident status for undocumented minors who arrived in the United States before their 16th birthday and plan to pursue a college degree — as potential stand-alone bills.

Other potential fault lines could emerge between urban and rural districts, as Members debate measures that would dictate guest-worker programs or various visa programs.

“We have a significant problem in agriculture that needs to be addressed,” said Rep. Dennis Cardoza (D-Calif.), who did not attend Tuesday’s meeting.

Rep. Charlie Gonzalez (D-Texas) said the early morning session also focused on how any measures should be taken up, including subcommittee and committee avenues available to review bills.

The CHC is scheduled to meet Thursday with Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who has held a similar meeting earlier this month with members of the Judiciary Committee, which has jurisdiction over portions of a comprehensive package.