Anything short of a path to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S. was said to be a non-starter in Democratic circles.
Now the Republican-run House’s talk of an alternative — some legal status for the undocumented taking the “fear” out of their lives — is being greeted as the makings of “a real possibility.”
Ironically, the greeter is the Democratic leader whom one Republican opponent of any relief for the undocumented has derided as unmovable and politcally motivated.
“While these standards are certainly not everything we would agree with, they leave a real possibility that Democrats and Republicans, in both the House and Senate, can in some way come together and pass immigration reform that both sides can accept,” Sen. Chuck Schumer, a New York Democrat, said in a statement issued today.
The set of principles emerging from a House Republican retreat on the Eastern Shore of Maryland today say there should be a way for those immigrants without approval to “live legally and without fear in the U.S., but only if they were willing to admit their culpability, pass rigorous background checks, pay significant fines and back taxes.”
That language about background checks, fines and back taxes is part of the requirement that the Democratic-led Senate included in the bill passed last year offering those immigrants a path to citizenship.
“Hands down, the most divisive element of the immigration debate is a pathway to citizenship” for the undocumented, Sen. Ted Cruz, a Texas Republican, said at a BGov breakfast today. “It is profoundly unfair.”
Cruz said Schumer has told him: “If there is no citizenship, there can be no reform.” Cruz also has accused Schumer and the White House of pressing the issue for “one over-arching political goal” — to enhance the Democrats’ standing in elections.
So now both Schumer, one of the architects of the bipartisan Senate bill, and House Speaker John Boehner, an Ohio Republican, are speaking in terms of compromise for a measure on which President Barack Obama is encouraging action this year as well. Vice President Joe Biden personally delivered the message to Boehner this week behind the rostrum at the president’s State of the Union address.
“It’s time to deal with it, but how you deal with it is critically important,” Boehner told reporters at the House retreat today. “It’s one thing to pass a law, it’s another thing to have the confidence of the American people behind that law.”
— Michael Bender and Jim Rowley contributed