House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has rejected the idea that he would introduce the Senate's comprehensive immigration reform bill on the House floor for debate, saying the majority of GOP members in the House would not vote for any legislation which gave a path to citizenship for the nation's 11 million undocumented. GOP members are pushing instead for a series of single-issue, "piecemeal" bills on immigration which reflect conservative priorities and offer little in the way of legalization measures to those without papers. Publically, House Democrats protest.
"Piecemeal is no deal. Piecemeal is a deal-breaker," said Rep. Al Green, D-Texas, according to the Associated Press.
But privately, Democrats in the House may see the only way to get the Senate bill considered in the House is in tandem with the "piecemeal" bills. Advocacy groups appear to agree with them.
"We know that if there is a bill that is voted on in the House of Representatives it will be conferenced with the Senate bill," Janet Murguia, president of National Council of La Raza, told the Associated Press, "so just vote on something and let the conference be the place where we can negotiate the differences. ...But for us, give us a vote. We deserve a vote."
Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-Texas, a second-generation Mexican-American, told the AP, "House Democrats want to get this done. We want to get immigration reform done in 2013 and it's on Republicans now who run the show in the House of Representatives to figure out how to work with us to get this done."
The racial makeup of representatives in the House breaks down to a striking degree along party lines. . Less than half of the 201 Democrats are white men, while 41 are blacks, 25 are Hispanic and nine are Asian, with 60 women mixed in among them. In comparison, of the 234 Republicans, 207 are white men. There is not a single black House Republican.
House Democrats say their majority of minorities and women gives them leverage in their struggles to change or scuttle GOP bills. Demographic trends see the white majority in the United States disappearing by 2043. Democrats have lost no opportunity to remind the GOP that their odds of capturing the 2016 White House depend to a large extent on minority voters, especially Hispanics. As such, they have cast Republicans' present decision on immigration reform - especially the path to citizenship for the nation's estimated 11 million undocumented - as a dilemma between heeding the pressures of the present or giving their party a chance to survive down the line.
So far, House Republicans have crafted four of its own immigration-related bills, the first three of which Democrats have fought tooth and nail. The Strengthen and Fortify Enforcement Act would give states and local law enforcement the authority to carry out operations cracking down on illegal immigration. The Legal Workforce Act mandates that all employers implement E-Verify, an electronic work eligibility system, within two years. The Agricultural Guestworker Act creates a new guest worker program for farmers in need of foreign labor but does not address worker protections and rights.
"It's an existential dilemma for the Republicans," Rep. Peter Welch (D-Vt.) told the AP. "The folks in gerrymandered (House) districts can just say no, but if they want to have any national future, the adults in the room have to say yes."