Boehner (Sort of) Casts Doubt on Immigration Reform

by Andrew Stiles

House speaker John Boehner (R., Ohio) appeared to cast doubt on the prospects for immigration reform on Thursday. At least, that is probably how his comments will be interpreted, although nothing the speaker said was inconsistent with what he has being saying all along: that immigration reform needs to happen, but getting a result will not be easy. 

“There’s widespread doubt about whether this administration can be trusted to enforce our laws. And it’s going to be difficult to move any immigration legislation until that changes,” Boehner said. “The American people, including many of my members, do not believe that the reform that we’re talking about will be implemented as it was intended to be. The president seems to change the health-care law on a whim, whenever he likes. Now he’s running around the country telling everyone that he’s going to keep acting on his own.”

Many House Republicans, even strong supporters of immigration reform, have expressed concern about the president’s trustworthiness when it comes to enforcing the law. “Nobody, even those who want to get this done, trusts the president,” Representative Mario Diaz-Balart (R., Fla.) told Politico last week. “And I understand it, because I don’t either.”

House Budget Committee chairman Paul Ryan (R., Wis.) said Sunday that immigration reform was “clearly in doubt” in part because of the GOP’s deep distrust of Obama. Senator Marco Rubio (R., Fla.), who helped write the Gang of Eight legislation in the Senate, has been saying as much for several months, conceding that “it’s difficult to find a good answer to that” charge.

But before pronouncing immigration reform dead, it’s worth considering what the Huffington Post reported last July shorty after the Senate passed the Gang of Eight bill: “Immigration reform is not dead. The doom and gloom is being fed, at least in part, by GOP leadership, to help position them politically for the coming fight.​”

That is why opponents of comprehensive reform are wary of any effort to downplay the issue. At the same time, they would surely pounce if Boehner announced plans to bring legislation to the floor, or even came across as anything other than skeptical.

The speaker faces intense opposition within the House Republican conference. Representative Raul Labrador (R., Idaho), a conservative who supports immigration reform, has suggested that Boehner should lose his speakership if he decides to push the issue this year. Labrador told reporters Wednesday that immigration reform is “one of the first things we should do” in 2015, when Republicans are expected to increase their numbers in Congress and potentially retake the Senate. 

“I think we should address the immigration-reform issue,” Labrador said. “The president has a year to prove to us that he’s willing to actually enforce the law.”