The immigration fight has moved inside the House of Representatives since the Senate’s comprehensive reform bill passed last summer, and it’s beginning to intensify in the dichotomy between the supporters of its two chief leaders, Speaker John Boehner and Majority Leader Eric Cantor.
“Eric Cantor is the number one guy standing between the American people and immigration reform,” pro-reform America’s Voice Executive Director Frank Sharry said on a conference call with Democratic activists earlier this week, according to the Associated Press.
Reformers allege that future speakership ambitions and a tea party primary challenge on June 10 have pushed the Virginia Republican to stiffen, drag it out or not address immigration at all to appease tea party House members and voters. Those same factors have reportedly driven a wedge between the already divided top two tiers of the lower chamber’s leadership.
Boehner criticized his House Republican colleagues last month for avoiding immigration, alleging they viewed the issue as “too hard.”
“We get elected to make choices. We get elected to solve problems and it’s remarkable to me how many of my colleagues just don’t want to,” Boehner said. “They’ll take the path of least resistance.”
Cantor spokesman Doug Heye challenged the assertions against Cantor, citing the majority leader’s announcement with Republican House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte last summer to propose legislation granting citizenship to undocumented immigrants brought into the U.S. as children illegally.
Heye also pointed to Cantor’s commitment last year to help California Republican Rep. Jeff Denham bring a bill to the floor offering similar citizenship to undocumented children brought in illegally in exchange for military service.
The bill with Goodlatte has yet to materialize and Cantor’s office announced last week that Denham’s proposal, dubbed the ENLIST Act, would not come to the floor for a vote this year as part of 2015’s defense authorization bill, for which Cantor scheduled a Thursday vote. According to Heye, both of those conversations are still ongoing.
“On the issue of kids, he thinks that’s a great place to start and wants to continue to work on that. He supports the principle behind the ENLIST Act,” Heye said. “These are things that he believes because they’re the right things for him to do. It’s not a political calculation. Eric Cantor’s position on immigration remains consistent.”