US Republicans will lay out principles on immigration policy this week at their party retreat, amid an internal debate over whether to address the lightning-rod issue ahead of November’s congressional elections.
On the day after President Barack Obama’s Tuesday night State of the Union speech, the 232 Republicans in the House of Representatives will seclude themselves at a resort on Maryland’s Eastern Shore to thrash out policy guidelines for 2014.
“And on Thursday… we’re going to outline our standards, principles of immigration reform and have a conversation with our members,” House Speaker John Boehner told reporters Tuesday.
“And once that conversation is over, we’ll get a better feel for what members have in mind.”
The debate comes as congressional aides acknowledge that some Republicans at the retreat will push for an overhaul of the country’s outdated immigration laws that includes a pathway to legal status for many of the 11 million people living in the shadows in the United States.
The aides told The New York Times that the statement of principles would stop short of extending citizenship to adults illegally in the United States, although Republicans would back a path to citizenship for those illegally brought to the country as children.
Republican leaders have acknowledged the need for immigration reform, citing the party’s low support among the country’s growing Hispanic community.
But they have stressed they will tackle the reform piecemeal, passing bills that address issues such as improving border security.
They are also sensitive to the concerns of party conservatives that legalization of illegal immigrations is akin to amnesty, a warning expressly put forward Monday in an editorial in National Review magazine.
“House leadership is about to roll out a set of immigration principles reportedly including an amnesty for illegal aliens, and presumably will follow up with a push to pass them through the House. This is legislative strategy as unforced error,” the prominent conservative magazine wrote.
“The correct course is easy and eminently achievable: Do nothing” on immigration, the Review said, and instead focus Republican attention on battling against President Barack Obama’s troubled health care reform law.
A landmark Senate bill last year offered the most comprehensive overhaul of immigration laws in a generation, boosting border security, reforming visa rules and providing a 13-year pathway to citizenship for millions of illegal immigrants.
But while that bipartisan bill passed the Senate in mid-2013, the Republican-led House refused to take it up, despite calls from business groups that support action on immigration as a way to boost the economy.