Immigration Reform: Are the GOP Votes Really There?

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Following President Barack Obama’s State of the Union Address, eyes swiveled to focus on the Republican immigration reform principles outlined by House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio). The President indicated that he would be interested in signing a bill such as that into law, depending upon some of the particulars. Now, though, it would seem that many fellow GOP members are not entirely on board with Boehner’s plan, making immigration reform in 2014 look like far more of a challenge.

Republicans met at the yearly issues conference retreat Thursday to discuss the possible immigration legislation, but the party members were divided. A member of the House of Representatives told the New York Times that the discussion was “very passionate” and had a “sizable bloc” against Boehner’s opinion. While Obama spoke in an interview with CNN, saying that, “I actually think we have a good chance of getting immigration reform,” after having discussed the suggested plan released by Boehner, while some Republicans are expressing doubts.

“One of the root challenges is the lack of trust in President Obama and Senator Reid. It’s a shame because we agree perhaps on most of the issues, but getting past the basic hurdle of who we can work with is hard,” said Representative Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) to the New York Times. The path to reform requires a tricky balancing act as well, one between Democrats and immigration advocates and Republican interests who will focus on ensuring that citizenship is not a given with the new legislation.

“There will be no special path to citizenship for individuals who broke our nation’s immigration laws — that would be unfair to those immigrants who have played by the rules,” said the release of Boehner and other Republican’s plans. It also hit upon the future of enforcement. “None of this can happen before specific enforcement triggers have been implemented to fulfill our promise to the American people from here on, our immigration laws will indeed be enforced,” said the outline, according to the New York Times.

Boehner has had immigration reform attempts defeated in the past, specifically in an agricultural policy bill that was shot down in the House of Representatives in June of 2013. Since then, the topic has been heavy in his political rhetoric, but not necessarily in that of his fellow party-members.

While Democrats have long been in favor of reform, some of the Republican focus may be driven by protests from company executives and donors in recent months. In October, some came to Washington to lobby against their own party representatives, threatening to cease contributions in the next election if Republicans didn’t work out immigration issues. “Send me a comprehensive immigration reform bill in the next few months, and I will sign it right away,” said President Obama in the Tuesday night Union Address. Upon closer examination of the Boehner-backed plan, he didn’t guarantee a signature, but neither did he back away from the possibility too quickly.

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