January 30th, 2014
05:22 PM ET
8 years ago

House Republican leaders unveil immigration standards

Updated 9:37 a.m. ET, 1/31/2014

Cambridge, Maryland (CNN) – House Republican leaders unveiled on Thursday an outline of immigration "standards," saying there "will be no special path to citizenship" for the country's estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants.

The document says, "These persons could live legally and without fear in the U.S., but only if they were willing to admit their culpability, pass rigorous background checks, pay significant fines and back taxes, develop proficiency in English and American civics, and be able to support themselves and their families (without access to public benefits)."

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The GOP outline, which was discussed at the House Republicans' annual strategy retreat, insists that "none of this can happen before specific enforcement triggers have been implemented."

The outline does not provide a specific timeline for when undocumented residents could attain legal status. Two Republicans told CNN the plan would not explicitly bar eventual citizenship for those qualify under existing employment and family- based categories.

"These standards are as far as we are willing to go," House Speaker John Boehner told conference members, according to a source in the room. "Nancy Pelosi said yesterday that for her caucus, it is a special path to citizenship or nothing. If Democrats insist on that, then we are not going to get anywhere this year."

Pelosi said Democrats look forward to reaching common ground on immigration reform with House Republicans but the current draft leaves questions unanswered.

"It is our hope that the presentation of these standards signals a sincere intent to move forward with immigration reform. However, the Republican principles raise more questions than answers," she said in a statement.

"First, what is the standard for DREAMers to become citizens of our country? Next, what is required for immigrants to live legally in our nation, and will it result in full citizenship? Finally, will Republicans' enforcement triggers create more barriers instead of removing obstacles to comprehensive reform?"

Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin, who helped draft the principles, told CNN's Jake Tapper, "It's not trust then verify. It's verify then trust. Verify that we have border security. Verify that we have interior enforcement. Verify that we've got the right rule of law reforms in place so we don't have this problem 10 to 15 years down the road."

Boehner acknowledged the issue was tough politically, but declared it should be on the House GOP agenda this year.

"This problem has been around for at least the last 15 years. It's been turned into a political football. I think it's unfair, so I think it's time to deal with it," the speaker said at a news conference Thursday.

The issue of how to deal with undocumented workers in the country now is the central component of immigration reform that splits House GOP members.

The new reform principles from Boehner - unveiled at a three-day closed-door meeting - provides a path to citizenship for children, but sets up a separate process for adults to gain legal status.

But even if Boehner can get agreement on GOP principles - a tall order given the difficulties the Speaker has had corralling many conservatives - some House Republicans say the timing for moving the legislation is not ideal this year.

According to several GOP sources familiar with the discussions, a growing number of members – even those who are frequent allies of Boehner - are worried that voting on such a bill would just open them up to primary challenges from the right. They caution that the leadership should hold off until most of the GOP primaries are over, or even wait until the lame duck session of Congress after the midterm elections in November.

North Carolina Republican Rep. Patrick McHenry said it was important for House Republicans to lay out their position on immigration, but stopped short of saying they should vote on anything.

"I don't think it's good strategy for us to divide ourselves. If we can unify around a plan and lay out our plan for how we would do immigration reform, I think that's a helpful thing. A vision and a plan are a helpful thing," McHenry said.

But House GOP campaign chief Rep. Greg Walden, R-Oregon, agreed with Boehner that they need to tackle the issue, telling reporters, "People expect us to solve these problems."

Walden pointed out that the House schedule puts budget votes and other issues ahead of any debate on immigration, so a vote on that is "probably months out." And, he added, "most of the primaries will have faded by then, anyway."

Illinois Rep. Adam Kinzinger did admit that some of his colleagues are reluctant to take on such a controversial issue, but said he thinks it is time to present a Republican solution.

"I'm not worried. I'll just do what the right thing is at the right time and we'll see how this debate shapes out," Kinzinger told reporters.

Boehner deflected questions about the specifics of a GOP bill, but reiterated that he wants to do it in "bite-sized pieces" and that it has to start with border security.

"You can't begin the process of immigration reform without securing our borders and the ability to enforce our laws," the speaker said. "Everyone in our conference understands that's the first step in terms of meaningful reform of this problem."

Louisiana Rep. Steve Scalise, who heads a group of conservatives in the House, said the GOP does need to address the problems in the current system, but also emphasized that current restrictions need to be effectively enforced and security needs to be beefed up.

While he said he would await what leaders decided to push, Scalise seemed skeptical of a plan granting legal status to those undocumented workers in the country now.

"If you do say that somebody right now that's here illegally can jump ahead of somebody that's waiting in that line. I think that does create problems for the people who are playing by the rules," he said.

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka slammed the Republican principles, issuing a statement pushing for a pathway to citizenship.

"Seven months after 68 Senators overwhelmingly passed a bipartisan immigration bill, House Republicans respond with a flimsy document that only serves to underscore the callous attitude Republicans have toward our nation’s immigrants,” he said in a statement. “Until we create a functioning immigration system with a pathway to citizenship, ruthless employers will continue to exploit low wage workers, pulling down wages for all.”

Thomas Donohue, president and CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, called the outline an “encouraging sign.”

"The draft Standards for Immigration Reform being debated by the House Republicans today mark important progress in ensuring immigration reform is a priority this year.”

Filed under: Congress • House • Immigration
soundoff (16 Responses)
  1. IA

    Wow...This is tooo tough. We should be "softer" on our treatment of illegals. Perhaps massages and soothing music to alleviate the fear.I'm waiting to hear the lefts take on how unjust and cruel this proposal is. Of course there are alot of potential votes at stake here so this should really rile them into a lathered mess.

    January 30, 2014 05:35 pm at 5:35 pm |
  2. J'Cincinnati'Redd

    Citizenship for what? Because they broke the law? Its like i been robbing banks for the last 10 years,and because the police got tierd of chasing me they said"Hey pal just keep the money. I mean you have been breaking into banks for years,so why stop you now?"It is very unfair to the working class. They will feel the heat. We are a country of laws,this whole legal citizenship thing stinks. I dont like it at all.

    January 30, 2014 05:35 pm at 5:35 pm |
  3. smith

    Build a wall, a great wall will solve the illegal immigrant issue, the drug flow, stop snakeheads, and illegal weapons.

    January 30, 2014 05:48 pm at 5:48 pm |
  4. Ol' Yeller

    "Rather, these persons could live legally and without fear in the U.S., but only if they were willing to admit their culpability, pass rigorous background checks, pay significant fines and back taxes, develop proficiency in English and American civics, and be able to support themselves and their families (without access to public benefits)…"

    Man... if this was applied to white folks in the south, the republicants would never win another election.
    Heck, their majority in the House would be out based on the 'profiency in American civics' alone. They don't even know how to keep the Government running and when it shuts down because of their ignorance, they blame the President, all the while celebrating their having shut down the government!
    And, people actually go to the ballot box and purposefully vote for these pillars of ignorance... Amazing!

    January 30, 2014 05:48 pm at 5:48 pm |
  5. The REAL Truth...

    @Bill from GA – As recently as 2011, WalMart paid $4.6 billion to the U.S. federal government in Income Taxes and deferred paying an additional $1.4 billion. It also paid $743 million to state and local government. Taxes paid (not deferred) amount to about 19%. Data from 2013 shows Income tax expense: $7.98 billion. (BTW, that will make up for a lot of food stamps some of their workers get.)
    $446 BILLION in sales and after paying all those HUGE taxes.. (they ARE a deductible expense) they still ended up with $15.7 BILLION PROFIT... some of that could have been used to pay their workers a living wage that would have kept them off the welfare rolls...
    and your other example – Exxon-Mobil.. yeah.. rough... after all those taxes, they still came out with some $50 BILLION in profit. Collectively, BIG OIL made of $100 BILLION in profit in 2012. XOM received $600 million annual tax breaks in 2012. In 2011, they paid just 13 percent in taxes. The company paid no taxes to the U.S. federal government in 2009, despite 45.2 billion record profits. It paid $15 billion in taxes, but none in federal income tax.
    And .. they have yet to pay the good folks of Alaska a DIME for the XOM Valdez spill....

    Bill, ya think there might be some substance behind the bashing ??? Nah.. it's just libs.

    January 30, 2014 05:51 pm at 5:51 pm |
  6. Bigd9749

    So the GOP plan is stick our heads in a hole and do nothing..again

    January 30, 2014 05:57 pm at 5:57 pm |
  7. Tony D

    We don't need immigration reform. We need people that are simply willing to do their job and enforce the laws already on the books. You are here illegally, then you get caught and deported, within 7 days. Not like Obama's relatives that have been here for decades, flaunting the law and collecting welfare.

    There are NO other countries on this planet that allow their country to be invaded and taken over by tens of millions of illegals. NONE. Why are we playing the fool and paying billions in tax dollars for these illegals? Total liberal insanity.

    January 30, 2014 05:59 pm at 5:59 pm |

    Without actually securing the border it's pointless.

    January 30, 2014 06:07 pm at 6:07 pm |
  9. Sniffit

    One word: farce.

    They're paying lip service to immigration reform here. All they really want is massive defense contractor spending along the border and that's it. They'll promptly blow up negotiations and refuse to compromise or work towards anything else if they get their defense spending.

    Newsflash to Teatrolls: you just alienated the entire Hispanic community even further. Enjoy. Please proceed.

    January 30, 2014 06:12 pm at 6:12 pm |
  10. Ol' Yeller


    "Citizenship for what?"

    Uh... I don't know. Why don't you ask Ronald Reagan? He just gave them all amnesty across the board and you guys think he hung the moon.
    But when the black guy just asks for a bill your heads all explode and suddenly every brown person is hardened criminal.

    January 30, 2014 06:35 pm at 6:35 pm |
  11. tza

    In other words they still have nothing, zilch, nada.

    January 30, 2014 06:52 pm at 6:52 pm |
  12. bcrunner

    Hmmmm..... waiting to hear who will cut your lawn.. wash your cars and clean your homes congressmen..

    January 30, 2014 08:37 pm at 8:37 pm |
  13. Hooper

    The people voting republican in the last three elections should have had higher standards too. Maybe some of you creeps could taste unemployment first hand, and tell the rest of us how good you've got it.

    January 30, 2014 08:42 pm at 8:42 pm |
  14. Thomas

    I love the above image , must be St Patty's day !

    Why not go to war with the whole world for a week , then we can call them refuges and help set them up with donut shops and liquor stores !

    The GOP will be happy , they like war's , they can sell war insurance !

    January 30, 2014 09:01 pm at 9:01 pm |
  15. J.V.Hodgson

    RU reading this!? most of these people have jobs on minimum wage or less hence the real reason they oppose upping the minimum wage because that means a) they have to claim benefits or b) just rely on welfare which pays more than Minimum wage !! I Think, most immigrants will be disgusted with this clear disingenuity of intent re citizenship.
    It also keeps then from voting (potentially) for ever.... what a joke

    January 31, 2014 03:08 am at 3:08 am |
  16. Marie MD

    That picture would scare Freddy!
    The three anti America, anti Obama and anti everything NOT them.
    It's funny that cantor was criticizing the President's my way or the highway because his year book quote was "I want what I want when I want it". You see Virginian, things we do and say in our youth do come back and bite us in the behind.

    January 31, 2014 06:37 am at 6:37 am |