July 23, 2013

House GOP, Democrats clash over immigration

With a comprehensive bipartisan solution passed by the Senate, Democrats say they won't settle for a watered down version from House Republicans.

WASHINGTON — House Republicans took a tentative step toward offering citizenship to some unauthorized immigrants Tuesday, but hit an immediate wall of resistance from the White House on down as Democrats said it wasn't enough.

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House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio, and GOP leaders, pauses while meeting with reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, July 9, 2013, following a Republican strategy session. House Republicans confronting the politically volatile issue of immigration are wrestling with what to do about those already here illegally, with most Republicans reluctant to endorse citizenship for 11 million unauthorized immigrants but also shying away from suggestions of deportation. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

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In this photo taken June 27, 2013, House Minority Leader, Democrat Nancy Pelosi of California, speaks at a Capitol Hill news conference in Washington. The Republican chairman of the House Judiciary Committee said Sunday, June 30, that any attempt at comprehensive immigration legislation cannot offer a "special pathway to citizenship" for those in the United States illegally. That approach, said Pelosi Sunday, could block the GOP's hopes of ever winning the White House. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

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The dismissive reaction to the GOP proposal to offer eventual citizenship to some immigrants brought illegally to the U.S. as children underscored the difficulties of finding any compromise in the Republican-led House on the politically explosive issue of immigration.

That left prospects cloudy for one of President Barack Obama's top second-term priorities. Congress is preparing to break for a monthlong summer recess at the end of next week without action in the full House on any immigration legislation, even after the Senate passed a sweeping bipartisan bill last month to secure the borders and create a path to citizenship for the 11 million immigrants already in the country illegally.

At a hearing of the House Judiciary immigration subcommittee Tuesday on how to deal with immigrants brought here illegally as children, Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., suggested that "we as a nation should allow this group of young people to stay in the U.S. legally." House Republican leaders have embraced offering citizenship to such immigrants, and Goodlatte is working on a bill with Majority Leader Eric Cantor toward the goal.

It is something of a turnaround for Republicans, many of whom in the past have opposed legalizing immigrants brought here as kids. And some Democrats and immigration advocates said it was a welcome development showing the GOP has moved forward since nominating a presidential candidate last year, Mitt Romney, who suggested that people here illegally should "self-deport."

Yet even before the hearing began Democrats dismissed Goodlatte and Cantor's not-yet-released legislation, saying that any solution that doesn't offer citizenship to all 11 million immigrants here illegally falls short.

Over Twitter, White House senior adviser Dan Pfeiffer slammed "the cruel hypocrisy of the GOP immigration plan: allow some kids to stay but deport their parents."

That drew an angry response from Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., who chairs the immigration subcommittee. After reading Pfeiffer's tweet aloud at the hearing, Gowdy labeled Pfeiffer "a demagogic, self-serving, political hack."

Cantor spokesman Rory Cooper also responded to Pfeiffer, asking over Twitter: "If White House opposes effort to give children path to staying in only country they know, how serious are they about immigration reform?"

In fact, Democrats and immigration advocates pushed hard in past years for legislation offering citizenship to immigrants brought as youths. The so-called DREAM Act passed the House in 2010 when it was controlled by Democrats, but was blocked by Senate Republicans.

But now, with a comprehensive solution like the one passed by the Senate in sight, Democrats and outside activists say they won't settle for anything less.

"Legalizing only the DREAMers is not enough," said Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill. "I cannot imagine for one minute that Republicans, who also honor the sanctity of families, want to legalize the children, but leave the rest of the family vulnerable."

Some Democrats and outside advocates also contended that Republicans were advancing a politically attractive measure just to give themselves cover to avoid dealing with all the immigrants here illegally. They noted that as recently as June the House's GOP majority voted to overturn an Obama administration policy halting deportations of some immigrants brought to the U.S. as youths — a policy put in place after Congress failed to pass the DREAM Act.

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