Opponents to Immigration Reform Are Running Out of Options

The Atlantic
Opponents to Immigration Reform Are Running Out of Options
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Opponents to Immigration Reform Are Running Out of Options

Conservative opponents to immigration reform are starting to get creative in thinking up ways to stop the bill working its way through the Senate. There are reasons for opponents to be very nervous: In an interview with ABC, House Speaker John Boehner would not rule out passing an immigration bill without the support of a majority of Republicans. "I'm committed to is a fair and open process on the floor of the House," he said, adding there's "no question" the House and Senate could agree on a deal. And this week, the Speaker laid out his plan to pass the bill in the House -- representing "a significant shift and suggests a new urgency for Republican leadership," Politico's Seung Min Kim and Jake Sherman report. New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte has endorsed the proposal. Florida Sen. Marco Rubio sounds less nervous after previously suggesting he might vote against his own bill, saying, "I won't abandon this issue until it's done, until we get a bill passed." 

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With all the political momentum in the Republican Party running toward passing the bill what's a hardline immigration opponent to do? Iowa Rep. Steve King has gone public with his plan to force a "special conference" on immigration -- a procedure that "happens to be the same procedure one would use to force an unscheduled leadership election," The National Review's Jonathan Strong reports. King's comments make it clear his allies see the writing on the wall: "A lot of us who will defend the rule of law and took an oath to uphold the Constitution are watching this agenda be maneuvered around us." But how isolated King is becoming within the GOP is clear from this moment in a closed-door meeting of the Republican Study Committee:

"Who wants less legal immigration?" [Idaho Rep. Raul] Labrador asked, according to the notes of a person who was in the room.

Of the roughly 100 conservative Republicans in the room, only King raised his hand.

King says he's not trying to unseat Boehner, but merely to force a conversation. Others opposed to the immigration bill are less diplomatic. Alabama Rep. Mo Brooks told CNN this week, "If the Speaker allows a vote on any immigration bill that results in the passage despite a majority of the Republican conference voting against it, then it will be interesting to see if he can muster the votes to get re-elected after the next election."

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Sen. John Cornyn is trying a different approach. He will introduce an amendment would prevent the 11 million undocumented immigrants in the country from getting provisional legal status until the government can monitor 100 percent of the border and arrest 90 percent of people crossing illegally. That is really hard, because the border is really big, and it means immigrants could be in limbo indefinitely. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has called it "a poison pill," while South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham has said, "The problem you’ll have if you try to enhance border security in an unachievable way and tie it to the path to citizenship, I think the deal falls apart."

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