Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) has been a key supporter of immigration reform. His presidential hopes may depend on it. PHOTO: Gage Skidmore, CC License
The Senate passed comprehensive immigration reform on a 68-32 vote, which drew 14 Republicans to favor of the bill. The bill creates a 13 year pathway to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants currently living in the U.S. The bill also tries to stem the flow of undocumented immigrants into the country by funding a fence on the U.S.-Mexico border and a “border surge” which would nearly double the number of guards manning the border. The border surge was part of an amendment crafted by Republicans Bob Corker and John Hoeven, which was crucial in increasing the number of Republicans supporting the bill. The last major component of the bill is E-Verify, a system that checks whether an employee is legally able to work in the United States. Employers would be required to use E-Verify under the Senate’s immigration bill.
All eyes now turn to the House, where Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has promised to make things difficult in two main ways. First, Boehner has pledged to obey the “Hastert rule” and only pass a bill favored by the majority of Republicans. The bill just passed by the Senate would likely pass the House, as it would garner the votes of almost every Democrat and enough Republicans to go through. This bill might not make it through the Hastert rule, however, due to opposition on the far right to any path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, no matter how long and arduous. Whether the House would pass the Senate bill appears to be a moot point, however, because Boehner has promised that the House will draft its own bill:
“I issued a statement that I thought was pretty clear, but apparently some haven’t gotten the message: The House is not going to take up and vote on whatever the Senate passes,” he said Thursday morning. “We’re going to do our own bill.”
Boehner’s tough stance will help him keep his job as Speaker after the 2014 elections (if Republicans maintain control of the House which, thanks to gerrymandering, they probably will), but it will severely slow down the immigration bill. The House is almost never satisfied with what the Senate proposes, and thus if they do produce a bill, it will likely tighten the screws further on E-verify, the border fence and the hoops undocumented immigrants have to jump through to gain citizenship.
Still, Republicans haven’t forgotten how badly they lost the Latino vote in 2012, so if there’s one big policy initiative that Congress is involved with that can pass under Obama, it is immigration reform. Stay tuned.