Conservatives warn House leaders against Gang of Eight bill on comprehensive immigration reform

“A conference committee is our enemy,” a conservative GOP aide tells National Review Online. “We want to do immigration this year, we can do immigration reform and Republicans should support it, but the process has to be to take each one of these bills one step at a time and focus on the things that we agree on.”

There are signs that House leaders have gotten the message. House Speaker John Boehner (R., Ohio) has not officially ruled out going to conference with the Senate but has insisted that any immigration-reform package must have the support of a majority of the GOP conference. Last week, Representative Matt Salmon (R., Ariz.) said at a gathering of conservative lawmakers that Boehner had privately assured him that “if there is any kind of conference, it will be on specific bills that we send over [to the Senate]. It will not be on the Gang of Eight bill.”

Many conservatives, however, remain skeptical. They note that prominent Gang of Eight supporters such as Frank Sharry of America’s Voice, which advocates comprehensive immigration reform, have signaled some flexibility on the issue of citizenship, tentatively embracing a proposal from chairman Goodlatte that would allow illegal immigrants to apply for citizenship through existing channels (after receiving legal status). That would be in addition to a special pathway to citizenship for so-called DREAMers, younger immigrants brought to the country illegally as children, a measure that is said to be the foundational component of the KIDS Act.

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