A general pessimism has settled over the pro-immigration community after the House GOP caucus failed to endorse a comprehensive Senate-ish approach to immigration reform after meeting to talk about dealing with immigration this year. But I’d argue that the news is a bit or a mix.
House Republican Leaders issued the following statement after the caucus meeting today:
Today House Republicans affirmed that rather than take up the flawed legislation rushed through the Senate, House committees will continue their work on a step-by-step, common-sense approach to fixing what has long been a broken system. The American people want our border secured, our laws enforced, and the problems in our immigration system fixed to strengthen our economy. But they don’t trust a Democratic-controlled Washington, and they’re alarmed by the president’s ongoing insistence on enacting a single, massive, Obamacare-like bill rather than pursuing a step-by-step, common-sense approach to actually fix the problem. The president has also demonstrated he is willing to unilaterally delay or ignore significant portions of laws he himself has signed, raising concerns among Americans that this administration cannot be trusted to deliver on its promises to secure the border and enforce laws as part of a single, massive bill like the one passed by the Senate.
So we know that the leadership is not a fan of a comprehensive bill and wants individual bills. And they emphasized that they want border security measures before a legalization program starts.
Other statements that emerged today from people like Raul Labrador and Daryl Issa made it sound like a legalization program is not off the table, but there should not be a special path to citizenship with the exception of DREAMers.
So while many are assuming immigration reform is dead, I can see the House – after the August recess – considering a legalization bill that would create a legal status similar to the RPI status in the Senate bill but which would not begin until after various border security triggers are met. There would only be a special path to citizenship for DREAMers but others could eventually get green cards through existing green card categories after more triggers are hit.
The question would then be whether Democrats would consider such a plan or simply ignore the House. Politically, the Democrats can do nothing and reap major rewards down the road since no matter what GOP members may be saying, the WILL be blamed for this failure and they will eventually lose the House when gerrymandering can no longer disguise demographic realities. On the other hand, Democrats could take a deal like this and wait until they've retaken the House to get a better program. And they WILL retake the House. Even if an immigration bill passes, the GOP's handling of the issue has effectively branded them as the anti-immigrant party and that is suicidal in 21st century America.