New York Times
By Ashley Parker
September 24, 2013
House Democratic leaders are working on a broad immigration proposal that they hope will reinvigorate the debate on Capitol Hill and pressure their Republican counterparts to pass legislation that includes a pathway to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants already in the country.
With an immigration overhaul languishing in the Republican-controlled House, taking a back seat to the fiscal fights that promise to occupy most of the fall, Representative Nancy Pelosi of California, the Democratic leader, began working with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, as well as with Representative Xavier Becerra of California, the chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, to put forth an alternative bill that she said she believes could garner bipartisan support.
Though no final decisions have been made, aides familiar with the strategy said, Democratic leadership hopes to introduce the bill in the next few weeks. Ms. Pelosi met repeatedly — in person and over the phone — with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus over the past two weeks, working closely with Representative Ruben Hinojosa of Texas, the group’s chairman.
The proposal would combine the broad immigration bill that passed through the Senate Judiciary Committee in May with bipartisan support, as well as a border security bill that also passed the House Homeland Security Committee in May with overwhelming bipartisan support.
The border-security component, drafted by Representative Michael McCaul of Texas, chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, requires the Department of Homeland Security to draft a plan to gain operation control — defined as a 90 percent apprehension rate of those who have crossed illegally — of the Southwest border within five years.
Ms. Pelosi’s proposal, however, does not include the border security amendment tacked on at the end of the Senate process in June, and spearheaded by two Republican senators, Bob Corker of Tennessee and John Hoeven of North Dakota. Though the Corker-Hoeven amendment helped garner the support of roughly a dozen Republicans for the overall bill, promising $40 billion over the next decade to secure the southern border — including doubling the number of border agents to 40,000 and completing 700 miles of fencing — many were wary of the border security plan, which they said was a waste of money and would “militarize” the border.
House Democrats said their proposal will, in the words of one aide, “shake up the environment” and offer an option that can win bipartisan support.
“Any member of the House — Democrat or Republican, who wants comprehensive immigration reform — can support this bill,” the aide said. “This is something that can get the support of House Republicans who have said they’re for a bill, and obviously we believe there are more that would vote for this at the end of the day.
“There are certainly enough votes in the House to get this bill across the line.”
Though the bill would most likely pass with the help of Democratic votes, Speaker John A. Boehner of Ohio would still have to agree to put the proposal on the floor for a vote, something he has been hesitant to do. The goal, Democratic aides said, is to create a situation where House Republicans are pressured to either vote on this plan — or to offer an alternative of their own, which very likely includes at least some form of legalization, and could proceed to negotiations between the House and the Senate.
“Leader Pelosi is proposing something closer to her ideal bill, and her intention is to keep the House moving forward, which is a good thing,” said Senator Charles E. Schumer, a Democrat from New York and a member of the bipartisan group in the Senate that drafted its immigration overhaul.
Though Democratic leaders had already begun talking about this new immigration strategy in recent weeks, the plan became particular urgent after two Texas Republican congressmen, John Carter and Sam Johnson, last week dropped out of a bipartisan group in the House that was hoping to introduce its own broad immigration plan.
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