House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) wants Democrats to “use this crisis” on the border to pass comprehensive immigration legislation — just as immigration hawks fear they’ll do.
“The most important thing that we can do to use this crisis as an opportunity is to pass comprehensive immigration reform,” Pelosi told reporters in Texas while discussing the border crisis, per Politico. Of the House Republican Working Group’s proposal, she said she needed to see “what the amount is, hopefully with no offsets, hopefully with no language that changes immigration.”
Pelosi’s allusion to changing current law marks a departure from the original Democratic position, as House Speaker John Boehner (R., Ohio) reminded reporters Thursday.
“You know, the administration started earlier this month by signaling some openness to changes in the 2008 law to accelerate the process of returning these children to their home countries,” Boehner said. “The president called for this change, the Secretary of Homeland Security called for this change, and other administration officials have called for this change. Now, the president and his team have apparently flip-flopped. Now they want billions in new spending, with no commitment to actually solving the problem.”
The working group, led by Representative Kay Granger (R., Texas), proposed increasing border security — including by deploying the National Guard to the border — returning the unaccompanied children to their home countries, and changing the 2008 human trafficking law that mandates a slow process for returning children from noncontiguous countries.
The bill was previewed to the full House Republican conference on Wednesday; the lawmakers are meeting again Friday to discuss the legislation.
“Due to a packed schedule and the complexity of the issue, there was not enough time for Member feedback at yesterday’s meeting,” Boehner spokesman Michael Steel told reporters in an email.
Representative Steve King (R., Iowa) told National Review Online that 50-70 House Republicans fear that Senate Democrats will use the conference committee to attach the Gang of Eight legislation to any policy changes passed by the House.
“I don’t want to see a vehicle coming out of the House that gives Harry Reid a chance to attach the Gang of Eight language to it and then send it back to the House and say, ‘We have all of these kids that are down here pouring into the United States, and we can’t fix that unless you first pass amnesty,’” King said.
Senator Jeff Sessions (R. Ala.) raised a similar concern in his statement on the Granger plan, saying that “if portions of this plan are as similar to the Gang of Eight bill as they appear to be, it could open the door to substantial legislative mischief in the Senate.”
Senator Ted Cruz (R., Texas) made the same argument to a group of House conservatives.
“In a Wednesday morning meeting, Cruz told a group of more than 20 House conservatives that they would regret passing legislation addressing the Texas border crisis because Senate Democrats were likely to gut it and use it as a vehicle to pass other immigration legislation,” The Hill reported.