House members optimistic about immigration overhaul
Updated On: Apr 07 2013 10:55:25 AM CDT
Two House members working on immigration reform sounded confident Sunday that their upcoming proposal will ultimately mesh well with the Senate's proposal, despite expected battles over the issue in both chambers in the months ahead.
"I am very, very optimistic that the House of Representatives is going to have a plan that is going to be able to go to a conference with the Senate in which we're going to be able to resolve differences," Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Illiniois, said on CNN's "State of the Union."
He was joined by his Republican colleague Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart of Florida. They're part of a "Gang of Eight" in the House that has been quietly working on a proposal, while a similar bipartisan group in the Senate takes on the same challenge.
Both groups staunchly oppose the idea of sending home the 11 million to 12 million undocumented immigrants in the country. The Senate group explicitly says that any path to citizenship, however, must come after the border is considered secure.
Asked if the House version would have a similar prerequisite, the two House members seemed less certain.
"You can't have a bill without border security. You just can't," Diaz-Balart said.
Pressed further on whether that provision would be a priority, Gutierrez said, "I think we can do this simultaneously."
"I think first thing we're going to do is, we're going to put people in a safe place. That is 11 million people, you can give them a work permit, Social Security card, driver's license," he added. "And then the second part is the path to the green card, that permanent residency that leads to citizenship."
The 1986 immigration bill passed under President Ronald Reagan was widely criticized for allowing millions of undocumented immigrants to stay in the country without enforcing tighter border control measures. Asked how the House "Gang of Eight" will assure members of Congress that a similar result won't take place, Diaz-Balart said, "There has to be a real - not lip service - a real serious order and interior security component of this."
"We don't want to go through this effort to be in the same place five or 10 years down the road. And therefore we have to learn from the mistakes of the past. Part of it is border security. Part of it is interior security," he told CNN's chief political correspondent, Candy Crowley.
The Senate proposal is expected to come "in the next couple of weeks," Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, said Sunday on NBC's "Meet the Press." Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-New York, however said Sunday on CBS' "Face the Nation" that they hope to get a deal done by the end of the week.
CNN reported that the eight senators have tentatively reached agreement on some of the thorniest issues, including the establishment of a path to citizenship and the creation of a system to assess the state of border security.
Business and labor leaders appear to have settled on a deal establishing a new immigrant guest worker program, as well. Although, Graham said Sunday they were "revisiting that."
Schumer told CNN later Sunday morning that they were about three-fourths of a the way there in terms of drafting the language, and on the guest worker sticking point, he said details for nonagriculture workers are agreed on but it's the agriculture guest worker part that is still being discussed.
The bill will still likely face resistance among some who may see the legislation as amnesty for those who came to the country illegally.
As for the timeline on the House plan, Diaz-Balart said the measure should be done this year, but added the group's "concern is to get it done well, not quickly."
"I expect very, very, very soon for that proposal to come forward," Gutierrez added. "But I do want to stress that this is a comprehensive approach to our immigration system."
Other House members involved in the talks are Rep. Sam Johnson, R-Texas; Rep. John Carter, R-Texas; Rep. Raul Labrador, R-Idaho; Rep. Xavier Becerra, D-California; Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-California; and Rep. John Yarmuth, D-Kentucky.
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