GOP Leaders Revive Democrats’ Amnesty Hopes

Neil Munro White House Correspondent
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Democratic leaders are welcoming efforts by the House GOP leadership to amend a minor 2008 immigration bill, because it could revive the now-dormant, business-backed comprehensive immigration reform push.

The House’s proposed change to the 2008 bill is “an opening for us to have a conference on our comprehensive immigration reform,” said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

GOP leaders announced Tuesday they’re scheduling a Thursday vote on changes to the existing 2008 immigration law. For more than a month, President Barack Obama has blamed the law for his decision to allow more than 100,000 Central American migrants into the United States.

The GOP’s base, and many voters, want to block the Central American inflow.

But conservatives and GOP-affiliated groups are rallying their supporters to block any changes to the 2008 bill.

That’s because any House vote to change the 2008 immigration law would allow House Speaker John Boehner to schedule a joint House and Senate conference where Democratic and GOP legislators could expand the slight changes to the 2008 law into a massive closed-door rewrite of the nation’s immigration laws.

Conservative groups and legislators worry an expanded conference will be used to draft an amnesty bill for at least 11 million illegals, and also to increase the current inflow of roughly two million immigrants and guest workers per year.

“A vote for this [amendment on July 31] is a vote for a conference,” warned one GOP Hill aide.

Once the conference is made possible by a House vote, then Boehner and the top leadership will instantly face enormous public and private pressure from Democratic legislators, President Obama and some Republicans, plus the nation’s business, media, agricultural and university sectors, plus Wall Street donors, to pass a big immigration rewrite.

In a statement Tuesday afternoon, Boehner said he will not advance the Senate immigration bill “in any fashion.”

“Nor will we accept any attempt to add any other comprehensive immigration reform bill or anything like it, including the DREAM Act, to the House’s targeted legislation, which is meant to fix the actual problems causing the border crisis,” Boehner said.

But in June 2013, the huge Democratic-led coalition persuaded the Senate to approve a comprehensive immigration reform that gave an amnesty to at least 11 million illegals, doubled the current inflow of guest workers and immigrants to roughly 4 million per year. That’s roughly equal to the number of Americans who turn 18 each year.

The Senate bill also loosened border protections, weakened penalties for employers who hired illegals, and made it easier for deported illegals to re-enter the United States with their families. The bill would also have cut wages and shifted more of the nation’s annual income towards investors and away from workers, according to a June 2013 report by the Congressional Budget Office.

Those measures were so unpopular among voters, however, that Boehner ignored the Senate bill, dooming its chances of passage.

The current effort to stop any change to the 2008 bill has drawn support from a wide array of conservative groups, and by leading GOP conservatives, including Sen. Ted Cruz, Sen. Jeff Sessions, Sen. Rand Paul, plus numerous House Republicans, such as Alabama Rep. Mo Brooks.

“Until this administration demonstrates a sincere effort to uphold existing law and to stop issuing administrative amnesties, Congress should withhold any further money or legislation,” said a letter sent by the groups to Boehner on Saturday.

Conservative immigration reform groups say the 2008 law is a media-magnified distraction from Obama’s welcoming policies, which have put many or most of the 100,000-plus border-crossing adults, youths and kids on track to get green cards.

The conservative groups implored Boehner to discard any plans for a legal change that would trigger an expanded conference. “We fervently urge you to force the Obama administration to stabilize the border with the resources it already has through existing immigration laws,” said the letter from the group, which included NumbersUSA.

“Boehner and the leadership, if left to their own devices, would try to hammer out some kind of amnesty deal behind closed doors,” said Ira Mehlman, a spokesman at the Federation for American Immigration Reform.

The Daily Caller asked aides to Rep. Paul Ryan, the GOP’s budget chief and a major advocate for an expanded immigration rewrite, if he had made a public commitment to not expand the conference.

“Congressman Ryan has said a number of times he has no desire to go to conference on the Senate-passed immigration bill,” said a statement from his spokesman, Kevin Seifert.

Existing laws includes many options for excluding and repatriating the 100,000-plus Central American adults, youths and children who have crossed the border since October, the letter said.

Next year, the 2008 bill should be fixed to ease repatriation of youths from countries that don’t share a border with the United States, said the letter. There’s no need to make that change this year while the Senate is controlled by Democrats, said the letter.

The Senate’s bill has been largely defunct since August 2013, when the GOP leadership refused to schedule a House vote on the bill.

In June 2014, the primary defeat of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor by upstart Dave Bart, seemed to bury the Senate bill for good. Brat won the district by slamming Cantor as a “crony capitalist” who would import low-wage immigration labor to pad Wall Street profits.

But now the GOP leadership is threatening to split the party before the November elections, and also help Democrats shift blame to the 2008 law for Obama’s decision to not stop the Central American border-crossers.

If the House doesn’t change the 2008 bill, then the Senate immigration bill will die in January 2015 once a new Senate is sworn into office. Progressives and business groups will then have to restart their huge effort to get a bill through the Senate’s committees and final votes.

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