White House spokesman Jay Carney feebly spurned an emerging proposal by GOP leaders to grant work permits, but not citizenship, to 12 million illegal immigrants.
But Carney did not outright reject the plan, suggesting that the White House may be willing to accept the deal in part or negotiate around it.
“We need to pass comprehensive immigration reform, and when it comes to creating two classes of people in this country, we have always thought it the wrong approach,” Carney said Thursday, without using any of the harsh and partisan language reserved for the policy proposals that are opposed by President Barack Obama and his progressive coalition.
The soft tone reflects President Barack Obama’s policy of persuading top GOP leaders to pass an immigration rewrite that would vastly increase the inflow of Democratic-leaning, low-skill immigrants.
The Senate immigration bill, passed in June, would triple legal immigration to 30 million over the next decade, and double the inflow of university-trained guest workers.
GOP leaders face increasing pressure from business donors and the media to increase the supply of low-wage workers.
A Quinnipiac poll released earlier this month asked 1,487 registered voters if they would be more or less likely to support legislators who backed an amnesty, which was euphemistically called “a path to citizenship.”
Fifty-two percent of Republicans and 42 percent of independents said they would be less likely to vote for the legislator, even though Quinnipiac did not even tell the respondents the amnesty would apply to at least 11 million illegals.
GOP leaders, including House Speaker John Boehner, are now trying to zig-zag between their voters and donors.
Late January, they’re expected to ask GOP legislators to back a set of immigration ideas, dubbed “principles,” which would include an increased inflow of temporary workers, plus some form of legalization for roughly 12 million illegals.
For example, Rep. Kevin McCarthy, the GOP’s third-ranking leader, told home-district interviewer KBAK/KBFX that he backs an amnesty that would allow illegals to work for employers, including the farmers and agricultural companies in his rural California district.
“The principles aren’t written yet, but in my personal belief, I think it’ll go with legal status that will allow you to work and pay taxes,” McCarthy said.
GOP-friendly critics of the legalization-without-citizenship plan say it will boost the Democrats’ deep support among Hispanics, and also allow Democrats to slash at the GOP in 2016 for passing a so-called “Juan Crow” law that discriminates against Hispanics.
White House officials say an immigration deal could be historic.
“It will be a landmark piece of legislation,” Obama’s top aide, Valerie Jarrett, said in August. “Together with the Affordable Care Act … when we look back 50 years from now, I think we will all just be extremely proud,” she said.
For almost a year, Obama has adopted the diplomatic approach to the amnesty and guest-worker bill, in part, because many GOP voters and legislators are more likely to oppose an immigration rewrite if it is seen as beneficial to Obama.
The White House, however, often adopts very harsh and divisive language when it feels the polls are on its side.
On Jan. 14, for example, Carney repeated his claims that opponents of Obama’s much-criticized nuclear with Iran would start “a march to war.”
“The American people do not want a march to war,” he said Nov. 12. “It is important to understand that if pursuing a resolution diplomatically is disallowed or ruled out, what options then do we and our allies have to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon?”