With Congress out of town for five weeks, many predicted that immigration reform would fall by the wayside, but back at home, several Republican congressmen have voiced support for a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants.
In discussions with constituents at town halls and in interviews with news media, several Republican members of the House have indicated a willingness to support a pathway to citizenship proposed in the Senate immigration bill that passed in June — something that had been a major sticking point as House Republicans attempted to craft their own piecemeal approach to immigration reform, after leadership opted not to take up the Senate bill.
Last week, Washington Republican Rep. Dave Reichert said in a radio interview with KVI that he would support a pathway to citizenship for the estimated 11 million people in the country illegally.
Those people, he said, are “working here, and they’re here illegal, but they can’t purchase homes … because they’re hiding from the government, and they’re not paying income tax. I want them to get to the point where they’ve got to pay a fine, there’s some penalties they have to go through, there’s some steps they have to go through. And then I want to hold them accountable: then they get citizenship and they’re gonna pay taxes.”
He specifically pointed to the DREAMers – people who were brought here illegally when they were young children – as people whose situations must be remedied.
California Republican Rep. Jeff Denham said last week that he would have supported the Senate’s Gang of Eight Bill, saying he was “frustrated” that the House was not going to take it up.
The Senate bill won’t get a vote in the House, and it’s something that could have helped this community,” he said. “I am frustrated. I thought we’d get this done before the August work period. I think the Senate made tremendous progress. It was done bipartisan and I thought that would be enough to get the House moving forward.”
Illinois Republican Rep. Aaron Schock said at a town hall that he favored an eventual path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants already in the country along the guidelines laid out in the Senate bill.
“I think undocumented citizens should have to come forward, they should have to self-identify, they should pay a penalty and back taxes, and then I think they should … go on a probationary period, and then the border needs to be secured. The Senate bill has a provision in there that somebody in the administration ultimately makes the determination that the border is secure before those who have legal staff can then be in the line for citizenship to actually make application to citizenship,” he said.
He noted that he could not predict what a House bill might look like, but said that that is what he would personally support.
Florida Republican Rep. Dan Webster also came out for a pathway to citizenship in an interview with the Orlando Sentinel. He said he would support a pathway that roughly followed the guidelines laid out in the Senate bill, with one exception: he wanted state and local officials to help in enforcement of immigration laws.
In what could perhaps signal a meeting in the middle, New York Democrat Sen. Chuck Schumer, a member of the Gang of Eight and one of the architects of the Senate bill, said last week that he would be all right with a piecemeal approach to passing immigration reform.