House Republicans Lay Out Their Plan For Immigration Reform

During an annual retreat, House Speaker John Boehner announced his party's principles for passing immigration reform in the House.
Posted at 11:17 PM, Jan 30, 2014

During the House Republicans' annual retreat in Maryland, House Speaker John Boehner announced his party has come up with an immigration reform plan — and it has a path to legal status for undocumented immigrants.

"I think it's time to deal with it. But how we deal with it is going to be critically important. You know, it's one thing to pass a law, it's another thing to have the confidence of the American people." (Via Bloomberg)

Immigration reform has been a sore point for the House ever since the Senate passed a comprehensive bipartisan reform bill in June 2013. Boehner refused to bring the measure up in the House, saying his party would work on their own reform plan. (Via C-SPAN)

Thursday's announcement details what that plan might look like. One key point: a path to legal status for those in the country illegally — a longtime sticking point for the GOP — could actually be on the table.

"There will be no special path to citizenship for individuals who broke our nation's immigration laws. ... Rather, these persons could live legally and without fear in the U.S." (Via Speaker of the House John Boehner)

A writer for The Atlantic says the new plan also approves of citizenship for the children of illegal immigrants, a big shift for the party. "That Republican leaders are essentially embracing the Dream Act, which most of the party once vehemently opposed, shows that the GOP has truly moved on the issue."

But it's still very different from the Senate's proposal. The GOP plan ties any legalization to checkpoints enforcing borders security, and Al Jazeera notes the path to legal status comes with several stringent requirements.

"Those people would have to go through a background check, they'd have to pay fines, they'd also have to prove they're proficient in English, and they have to prove they wouldn't be relying on public assistance."

Many immigration advocates responded to the Republican document with cautious approval.

The Washington Post has a roundup of different reactions, from Senator Chuck Schumer's encouragement that "the door is open" for bipartisan immigration reform, to America's Voice's simple statement, "It's about time."

But at least one group isn't happy with what House Republicans have to say. The president of the AFL-CIO called Thursday's proposal "a flimsy document that only serves to underscore the callous attitude Republicans have toward our nation's immigrants."

And Bill Kristol of The Weekly Standard told CNBC immigration reform shouldn't even be on the Republican agenda until the party has more leverage on Capitol Hill. 

"They're going to have to compromise with Senate Democrats, they're going to have to compromise with President Obama, and then President Obama gets to enforce the bill, i.e. he gets to not enforce the parts of the bill he doesn't like. ... It's been a problem for fifteen years. You know what? It can wait one more year."

House Republicans have yet to set out a timetable for translating their plan into actual legislation, but one representative told ThinkProgress the issue wouldn't move until after the party's primaries are over in June.