Rep. Raul Labrador Says Syria, Debt Ceiling To Delay Immigration Reform

Rep. Raúl Labrador (R-Idaho)
Image labrador.house.gov

 

In an interview with Univision to be aired Sunday, Rep. Raúl Labrador (R-Idaho), who had once been part of a bipartisan group of House representatives tasked with crafting a comprehensive overhaul of the nation's immigration system, told "Al Punto" anchor Jorge Ramos that he thought possible US military action in Syria had set back debate on immigration, and added that if Congress didn't return to the topic in 2013, it wouldn't get another shot until 2015.  But even if Congress does go back to debating immigration reform before the end of this year, said Labrador, a bill which would offer legal status to undocumented immigrants wouldn't pass because of Republican opposition to the idea.

"I think we have the situation in Syria, we have the monetary situation, we have the situation with what's called the debt ceiling, which is the ceiling of the debt that we have in the United States," said Labrador. "All these things are now coming forward. They are the things that we have to do immediately, right now. And unfortunately, I think that is going to delay the immigration debate a little."  The Idaho representative agreed with Ramos that Congress didn't act in 2013, it was unlikely to take on such a hot-button issue in the election year of 2014.

"I think that if we don't do it now, in 2013, it's not going to be -- it's not going to happen in 2014. And that means that we're going to have to wait until 2015. So now, that time is -- it's becoming a lot shorter. We don't know exactly when we're going to be able to have this debate. A lot of us thought that the debate was going to be in October, but now, with the problems that we're having internationally and also here in this country, I don't see how we're going to be able to have this debate until--until November. And I really don't know if it will be possible to do it in November."

Labrador, a native of Puerto Rico and former immigration lawyer, advocates for legislation which does not provide a "special pathway to citizenship" for undocumented immigrants already living in the US.  "I would give them the same opportunity that we now give to any person who enters the States legally," he told Ramos.  "If they enter the United States through legal means, they can become citizens by-in two ways: Either through their family, or through their job." He left the House "Gang of Eight" in June because of a dispute over how the group's comprehensive legislation would handle health care for the undocumented - he wanted to hold them personally responsible for 100 percent of the costs of care received at hospitals, which are legally obligated to treat them. 

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David Iaconangelo is a Brooklyn-based writer and translator.  Formerly editor of ZafraLit, a blog of new short fiction from Cuba.  He has lived in and reported from various Latin American countries.