House Immigration Negotiators to Meet Today Amid Impasse
By Roxana Tiron – May 16, 2013 12:00 AM ET
A bipartisan group of eight U.S. House members is at an impasse after negotiating on an immigration bill for the past four years, said one member of the group, Idaho Republican Raul Labrador.
A meeting planned for today may mark the last time the group tries to agree on a proposal, Labrador said. He said he still hopes lawmakers will reach a compromise, though he said they are stuck on issues related to guest workers and health care for immigrants granted legal status in the U.S.
“If Democrats are unwilling to put certain issues aside, like we have had to as Republicans, then we probably have to proceed forward with a Republican bill,” Labrador said. “I am not willing to say it’s one last meeting, but I do know that there are some people that are just ready to move on.”
Texas Representative John Carter, another Republican in the group, said that today “could be” the last time he attends one of the meetings.
“It needs to be done and we’re just stalling and delaying, and it’s time for us to get our job done,” Carter said yesterday in an interview at the Capitol.
The Senate Judiciary Committee has begun considering a revision of immigration law from a group of four Republican and four Democratic senators. The measure seeks to balance Democrats’ proposed path to citizenship for 11 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S. with enough border-security improvements to satisfy Republicans.
Congress’s last effort to pass comprehensive immigration legislation stalled in 2007.
Republicans are trying to reconnect with Hispanics after President Barack Obama won 71 percent of that group’s votes in the November election.
House Speaker John Boehner, an Ohio Republican, told reporters last week that his chamber “is going to work its will on immigration reform.”
“This is an issue that has been around far too long, and needs to be dealt with,” Boehner said. “I intend to see that it’s dealt with.”
The House negotiators include Republicans Mario Diaz-Balart of Florida, Carter, Labrador and Sam Johnson of Texas, along with Democrats Zoe Lofgren and Xavier Becerra of California, Luis Gutierrez of Illinois and John Yarmuth of Kentucky.
Gutierrez said he’s uncertain what the Republicans’ intentions are regarding today’s meeting.
He said he plans to attend. “I expect it to be all fruitful,” Gutierrez told reporters at the Capitol. “I am very optimistic. There’s a lot at stake.”
Gutierrez didn’t address the disagreements among the group, though he said Democrats are “united.”
From the Republican side, Labrador said Democrats must agree “that people that are given legal status are not going to be a burden to the citizens of the United States.”
“It’s time for us to move on with a Republican plan if nothing happens,” Labrador told reporters after a House Republican meeting yesterday. “We need to move forward if we can’t agree.”
The House group has been considering a path to citizenship that would take at least 15 years for many undocumented immigrants, a congressional aide familiar with the details said last month on condition of not being identified speaking about the private negotiations.
Undocumented immigrants would have a probationary period of two to five years and would have to wait in line behind those legally seeking to live in the U.S., the aide said.
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, a Virginia Republican, said last month that he would proceed with separate bills instead of a comprehensive measure like the Senate is considering.
The Senate Judiciary Committee plans to resume work on that bill today. After two days of sessions this week in which dozens of amendments were considered, the measure has survived proposed changes that might have doomed it on the Senate floor.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has said he wants the legislation, S.744, to reach the floor in June.
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