Report: House Republicans working on immigration bill for 2015

The bill in the works is a security bill, not an amnesty bill. But let’s be real: There’s no way that Boehner and McConnell will leave GOP presidential candidates with nothing on the table to show Latino voters except more enforcement. If a security bill is in the works, a bill on legalization will follow sooner or later. And the smart money’s on “sooner.”

Dude, I’m nervous.

U.S. Republicans, outraged with President Barack Obama for easing deportations of millions of undocumented residents, plan legislation in 2015 strengthening the U.S.-Mexican border to discourage illegal immigration.

The move, likely to come early next year according to House Republican leadership aides, may lead to other steps the House of Representatives could contemplate to repair parts of U.S. immigration law

House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Michael McCaul likely will oversee the effort, according to leadership aides. McCaul has pushed legislation imposing tough standards for border apprehensions.

Well, that doesn’t sound too bad. An enforcement bill quarterbacked by McCaul could soothe frayed conservative nerves over amnesty and rebuild trust. Maybe they’ve finally given up on legalization in the near term.

Or … maybe they haven’t:

House Speaker John Boehner’s top committee chairman says he wants an immigration bill that would allow millions of foreign migrants to stay and work jobs sought by Americans.

“I’m going to use my assets and resources in the new year to work with this Congress… to have a well-understood agreement about what the law should be, and how we as communities, and farm communities, and tech communities, create circumstances where we can have people be in this country and work, and where not one person is quote ‘thrown out’ or ‘deported,’” said Rep. Pete Sessions, the chairman of the powerful House rules committee, told a group of Democratic legislators.

Jeff Sessions, Mike Lee, and David Vitter met with House conservatives last night to figure out a way to stop Boehner’s “cromnibus” counter to Obama’s amnesty, fearing that it’s little more than a punt and that the new GOP Congress will accede to O’s order next year. “Part of it is that leadership (as proxies for the Chamber [of Commerce]) wants the amnesty,” one lawmaker at the meeting told Joel Gehrke. “Obama’s order provides a way to deliver cheap labor to the Chamber without having to vote for it.” Right — and yet, they’d like to vote on it all the same or else Obama will get all the credit with Latinos. Besides, although it’s highly unlikely that Obama’s successor, whether Democrat or Republican, would fully rescind his executive amnesty, the fact remains that the only way to lock in legalization is to do it by statute. I think that’s why they’re using the “cromnibus” to delay the amnesty standoff over DHS funding until next spring: It buys time for Boehner and the new Senate Republican majority to huddle and plot a legislative path to broader immigration reform. Passing a security bill first will be a confidence-building measure designed to show conservatives that the GOP Congress they elected is taking their priorities seriously, answering O’s legalization gambit with an enforcement gambit. Then, if Obama signs the bill, they can declare victory, pronounce this the end of future amnesties in America … and gently say that it’s time to deal with the 11 million people who are already here.

Would Obama sign the security bill, though? Democrats oppose piecemeal immigration reform because they fear it’s a GOP trick. Once Obama agrees to more border security, the theory goes, Republicans will have gotten what they wanted and will forget about the legalization side of this. That’s stupid, though, since the whole reason Boehner keeps coming back to this topic is because he and his allies are eager to build goodwill with Latino voters via some sort of amnesty. The security stuff is just political cover; you would think Democrats would realize that and simply give them that cover. So yeah, Obama probably will sign the security bill at this point, fearing that it’s the only route to legalization and expecting that Latino voters won’t let Republicans walk away from further reforms once the security part of this is done. And even if Republicans do walk away, Obama’s executive order has made that bearable for Democrats. Hillary will point to the GOP’s refusal to take up legalization as proof that they hates Latinos; meanwhile, since O’s order is likely to survive his presidency, de facto legalization will already be happening anyway. And the longer it goes on and cements itself as the status quo, the harder it’ll be to undo it later. Obama holds most of the cards here, so why wouldn’t he make a small concession to Boehner by signing the new security bill in the spring? If nothing else, it’ll spare him the awkwardness of having to explain to voters why the White House opposes attempts to make enforcement at the border more effective.

Exit question, and it’s an important one: Assuming the security bill passes, will the GOP hold off on a legalization bill until there’s actual evidence that the new enforcement resources are working to reduce illegal immigration? That’s the true sticking point between right and left on a grand bargain. Lefties will happily agree to more security in principle, just as long as it doesn’t work. How about you, Rep. McCaul?

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