House Speaker John Boehner gently pushed his caucus another step towards a rewrite of the nation’s immigration laws on Tuesday by releasing a one-page defense of his “principles” on the issue.
But he also downplayed his drive to pass the foreign worker bill.
“There was a lot of discussion [in a Jan. 30 GOP meeting] about whether we should proceed and if we proceeded how we would proceed,” Boehner told reporters Tuesday morning. “We’re continuing to take comments from members about the draft principles… [and] no decisions have been made.”
This soft-focus strategy allows Boehner — and his well-funded business allies — to shepherd the GOP caucus towards a deal with President Barack Obama, while also calming the GOP’s base and the swing-voters who oppose any deal that allows U.S. companies hire foreign workers for jobs sought by Americans.
Obama’s aides say an immigration deal is their top legislative priority for 2014.
Boehner’s new Feb. 4 paper uses a question-and-answer format, plus poll-tested language developed by business-funded consultants, to mute widespread criticism of the leadership’s new push to increase the inflow of foreign workers.
“Why do we need to act on immigration reform?… [because] under our current immigration construct, we are unable to capitalize on our full economic potential,” said the paper.
“Isn’t your approach ‘amnesty’… No, Just the opposite is true,” claims the paper. “Using tough standards, the House’s approach would prohibit a special path to citizenship for those living here outside the law.”
Boehner is under intense pressure from the business sector, which wants an influx of new university-trained and low-skilled workers to hire for jobs in factories, restaurants, shops, canneries, hospitals, construction site, research centers and banks. For example, a House committee chaired by Virginia Rep. Bob Goodlatte passed a bill last year that would allow companies to bring in an additional 500,000 guest-workers each year. Despite his critical role in immigration, Goodlatte has stayed out of the public eye.
Currently, companies bring in roughly 650,000 guest-workers each year for non-agricultural jobs. Some stay for a few months, some stay up to a decade, some become citizens. The current population of university-trained guest-workers is roughly 800,000, and they work in cities and education centers around the nation.
The guest-workers are in addition to the roughly 1 million immigrants who arrive each year.
Roughly 4 million Americans will turn 18 this year, and will begin looking for jobs during a period of stalled wages, high unemployment and increasing automation.
The Senate’s immigration bill would increase legal immigration to 30 million over the next decade, and would roughly double the annual inflow of guest-workers, if approved by Boehner and the GOP leadership. It would also shift more of the nation’s wealth from wage earners to Wall Street investors, according to a June report by the Congressional Budget Office.
The Senate plan was developed by a New York Democrat, Sen. Chuck Schumer, in cooperation with Arizona Sen. John McCain South Carolina’s Sen. Lindsey Graham and Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio.
Boehner also released a comparison of his emerging plan to the Senate’s bill. The House would create “a realistic, usable temporary worker plan that helps secure our borders and grow our economy,” said the comparison, which does not include any numbers.
Much of the immigration controversy — and the media’s attention — focuses on the issue of an amnesty for the nation’s 12 million illegal immigrants.
Boehenr’s new paper said the GOP measure is not an amnesty, but merely “legalization.”
But “legalization IS amnesty despite Boehner’s hearty attempt to distinguish his efforts from the Senate bill,” said Bob Dane, a spokesman for the Federation for American Immigration reform, which is pushing to reduce annual immigration levels.
“The solution is to enforce our laws, to uphold the credibility of interior and perimeter enforcement and to have Congress insist that the president carry out his obligation to enforce the laws of our land,” said Dane.
Boehner’s top immigration advocate, Rep. Paul Ryan, has acknowledged the the emerging plan would allow the 12 million illegals to stay, work and eventually apply for citizenship via existing procedures. Once naturalized, the Democrat-leaning immigrations are expected to boost Democratic numbers in Congress as soon as 2020.
The GOP’s amnesty-related wordplay is denounced by advocates of immigration reform, including Rep. Mo Brooks and Sen. Jeff Sessions, who argue that reduced immigration will boost more Americans in the middle-class and would boost turnout for the GOP.
Boehner’s immigration plan was denounced by roughly two of every three Republicans who spoke at the Jan. 30 closed-door immigration debate in Cambridge, Md. The plan will likely split the party, and will threaten possible gains in the 2014 election, said critics. But GOP leadership aides told the Wall Street Journal that the plan was largely supported by the GOP caucus.
Boehner’s Feb. 4 statement also declared that the GOP would find away to make sure President Barack Obama enforces laws he does not like, or that give a disadvantage to his political coalition.
“How can we trust the president to enforce any of the laws?… As part of its step-by-step approach, the House would eliminate the ability for any administration to arbitrarily decide which laws to enforce,” said the statement.
However, the Constitution assigns the task of enforcing laws to the Executive Branch. Boehner’s statement did not explain how the Congress can make the president do something that he doesn’t want to do.
In June 2012, Obama announced he would spend federal money to grant work-permits to at least 300,000 younger illegal immigrants. Subsequently, Obama won 71 percent of the Hispanic vote in the 2012 election.
Despite a partially successful court case by immigration officers, the administration is still awarding the work-permits to illegal immigrants under the so-called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program. Because of the DACA program, more than 1.7 million illegals are in line to get work permits, unless a president stops the unfunded program. That’s equivalent to almost half the number of Americans who turn 18 each year.
Boehner’s plan highlights the tacit cooperation in D.C. between progressives, establishment Republicans and business interests,” said Dane. “We now have a Republican plan that’s almost identical to the Democrats’ plan,” he said.
“It might as well be the Schumer-Boehner-Chamber [of Commerce] plan,” he added.