On the same day that former President George W. Bush implored his fellow Republicans to carry a “benevolent spirit” into the immigration debate, a closed-door meeting of the House GOP revealed deep divisions, particularly on what to do with the 11 million immigrants who are living illegally in the United States.

Securing the border remains their chief priority, but a consensus could also be building around how to address Dreamers — the children of undocumented immigrants…

Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., quipped that the Republican Party “is like an orchestra,” with many members contributing meaningfully to the debate…

Although House leaders indicated there would not be any substantial votes taken during July and likely no major action on the matter until at least September, they pledged not to ignore the issue.

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“[We] affirmed that rather than take up the flawed legislation rushed through the Senate, House committees will continue their work on a step-by-step, common-sense approach to fixing what has long been a broken system,” GOP leaders said in a joint statement released on Wednesday evening.

But upon exiting the nearly two-hour meeting, lawmakers said they were no closer to setting a timetable for action, formulating a strategy or building consensus on how to deal with a pathway to citizenship for the nation’s roughly 11 million undocumented immigrants…

Others say the House will pass something because it has to.

“The White House would love us to fail so they can take back the House on the issue, so politically it would be advantageous for us” to pass immigration, said Homeland Security Chairman Michael McCaul, R-Texas. “We need to do something.”

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The House Republican leadership is reaching out to top House Democrats to assess their support for a piecemeal approach to immigration reform, according to sources involved in the discussions…

The legislation under discussion between Republicans and Democrats includes bills reworking the employment verification system and legislation to toughen border security, according to sources both involved in and familiar with the talks. In strategy sessions and planning meetings, Republicans have said that support for immigration reform is soft among GOP lawmakers — and leadership is skeptical that there is backing for anything more drastic than border security and E-verify…

The debate will also get lumped in with a busy fall, at a time when Congress will be jousting over government funding and the debt limit…

The meeting, and the lack of progress made, is sure to frustrate the corporate interests who are dropping millions of dollars into the effort to reform immigration. There was no real sense about whether the GOP will try to reform the high-skilled and low-skilled visa process, providing a new pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants or how they will tackle the plethora of other issues included in the Senate bill.

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A senior Democratic aide said, “things have clearly unraveled in the past couple of days,” even though some lawmakers had been “slightly cautiously optimistic” about passing a comprehensive bill…

Obama held a meeting with members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus on Wednesday to discuss strategy on how they could shoehorn the legislation through the House…

During the meeting lawmakers strategized on which lawmakers would support the bill and how they could get community groups and businesses to work on the issue.

He basically told us, ‘I’m relying on you to get this done,” one lawmaker in the meeting said.

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In a wide-ranging sit-down interview with TPM on Wednesday, Pelosi described her own bright lines and areas of flexibility — her procedural dos and don’ts and her policy limits — which ironically are the parameters that matter most when evaluating whether a bill is possible.

“We’ve always been saying — I talked to the Speaker about it — ‘However you want to bring it to the floor, bring it to the floor, but understand how it leaves the floor has to be in a comprehensive form to go to conference. But if you want individual votes on different sections I think that’s an OK way to go.’ As long as the pieces are there. Not just the things that we’ve seen come out of that caucus.”…

“I want 11 million people on a path to permanent legal status to lead to citizenship,” she said. “Permanent legal residency is a path to citizenship. This isn’t two separate things. … For our country, who are we as a country, if we say we have second-class Americans — it’s not even second-class citizens, because they’re not citizens, second-class Americans. So I think you can say a path to permanent legal status. But eventually after a certain period of time those people are eligible for citizenship. So it’s just a question of sequencing.”

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One prominent theory of party identification is that people identify with the party that they associate with social groups they like or belong to. So it’s not so much about policy, or what the parties “stand for.” It’s who the parties “stand with.” The challenge for the GOP is that even if it supports other policies that many Latinos support, its hostility to immigration reform may be the driving force behind a broader impression: that the Democrats are “the party of Latinos.” And once those impressions are formed, they are very difficult to change. As I’ve noted, the perception that the GOP is the “party of the rich” really has not changed for 60 years…

And if immigration reform were to fail, it is hard for me to see the environment becoming any more favorable. Think of the “meso-layer” of Latino opinion leaders—the priests, the Spanish-language media personalities, activists, etc. These are the people that Latinos who may not follow politics that closely hear day in and day out, in the pew and on the radio while driving and on their television sets. What are they going to say if reform fails? I think the indications are they’ll blame the Republicans…

How is the GOP going to be able to get information in front of Latinos that helps them view the party in favorable ways if Latino opinion leaders won’t provide it?

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Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul still believes the GOP would benefit from enacting a version of immigration reform before the 2016 elections, even though he voted against the comprehensive overhaul passed in the Senate at the end of June…

“I think Nevada is and should be open to the message that the Republican Party needs to be more welcoming to immigrants,” Paul said. “I think the message for the Republican Party needs to be that we welcome you. If you want to work, we will find a place for you.”

Pressed on whether his opposition to the Senate bill makes him a flawed messenger on that front, Paul said he continues to favor immigration reform and is “working with members in the House to move something forward.”

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Via Gallup.

gg

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Via the Corner.

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Via Greg Hengler.