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At GOP Retreat, House Members Regroup On Immigration

Speaker of the House John Boehner, R-Ohio.
Jim Watson
AFP/Getty Images
Speaker of the House John Boehner, R-Ohio.

Just days after President Obama called for action on immigration reform, Republican members of the House are regrouping on the issue during their yearly three-day retreat in Cambridge, Md.

As Roll Call explains, House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio is expected to present members with a one-sheet document on Thursday that lays out principles for rewriting immigration laws.

"What remains unclear is whether leadership has a solid strategy to round up the support," Roll Call writes.

Most members of the caucus have not seen the document. But quoting "aides," The New York Times reports that the document will call for "a path to legal status — but not citizenship — for many of the 11 million adult immigrants who are in the country illegally."

To give you an idea of just how difficult this issue will be for Boehner, think back to Tuesday's State of the Union: When Obama brought up immigration reform, the Republican leadership clapped, while rank-and-file members remained silent.

The advise to Boehner from the conservative National Review? Simply, "Don't Do It." The same publication quotes Pat Buchanan saying that bringing up immigration reform will create a "a Balkan war" within the Republican party. If Boehner insists, Buchanan said, this would be his "last hurrah," the end of his speakership.

On the other side, Democrats are likely to insist on a path to citizenship. The Washington Post reports that AFL-CIO President Richard L. Trumka, a major backer of immigration reform, called the House GOP proposal "fool's gold."

His organization would not back a measure that would not led to permanent legal status for immigrants, Trumka told the publication.

"[The GOP plan] means they would never get citizenship, never get a green card," Trumka said. "It's a joke. It's a hoax, is what it is. It's like fool's gold."

The AP explains why the GOP leadership believes it needs to push on the issue:

"In 2012, Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, who suggested that immigrants "self-deport," won just 27 percent of the Hispanic vote.

" 'It's no secret we have millions of people who are here, who are unlawful and we can't deny that, and I think that's something that has to be dealt with,' said Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Fla., who has been working on legislation. 'But a lot of components have to be dealt with.'

"The Senate last year passed a comprehensive, bipartisan bill that addressed border security, provided enforcement measures and offered a path to citizenship for those living here illegally. The measure stalled in the GOP-led House, where leaders want to take a more piecemeal approach."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit

Eyder Peralta is NPR's East Africa correspondent based in Nairobi, Kenya.
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