At the Republican annual retreat today, the principles for an immigration overhaul are expected to be introduced. Although some within the House GOP leadership show that they are willing to take action, others in the GOP aren’t as eager.
According to Russell Berman of The Hill:
“In interviews over the last several days, conservatives said that while they expect the principles to be broadly acceptable, they are less inclined to support a push by Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and others to advance specific legislative proposals heading into the midterm election campaign.
“I think the willingness to go so far as specific legislation has cooled considerably for different reasons over the course of the last couple weeks,” Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-S.C.) said Wednesday.
The principles will include support for giving probationary legal status to many illegal immigrants, Ryan confirmed in an interview Wednesday on MSNBC. That would be distinct from a so-called “special path to citizenship” that Republicans have long opposed.
Republican leaders have acknowledged that the reception of the rank and file at the retreat on Maryland’s Eastern Shore will be critical to the decision of whether to move forward.
“We’re going to outline our standards, principles for immigration reform and have a conversation with our members, and once that conversation is over, we’ll have a better feel for what our members have in mind,” Boehner said during a press conference.
When President Obama renewed his call for action on immigration reform during his State of the Union address, he won applause from Ryan and GOP leaders Reps. Eric Cantor (Va.) and Kevin McCarthy (Calif.), but most House Republicans sat in silence.”
But many Republicans in the House are in districts where they are relatively safe due to gerrymandering. In essence, Republican leaning voters are concentrated in districts where being pro-immigration might not matter much because it doesn’t resonate with the rank and file. So the Latino vote or more broadly, the pro-migrant vote, may not matter all that much to a large portion of the GOP House delegation.
At the same time, the Republicans know that they risk getting beat up by the Democrats in the election season for not taking action on immigration. But Democrats and their allies may not be willing to accept a GOP proposal that falls short of a pathway to citizenship for the undocumented.
For people who are at risk of deportation under the current set of policies, legalization minus a path could be something that some immigrants are willing to live with in the interim. A poll for the Pew Research Center released in December revealed that for Hispanics and Asians, deportation relief was more important than a pathway to citizenship.