Dems push for immigration reform vote, Boehner ‘hopeful’ it’ll occur

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Pictured here are Reps. Xavier Becerra and Steny Hoyer, both of whom support immigration reform.

Democratic Whip Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Md., left, talks with Rep. Xavier Becerra, D-Calif., during a news conference on immigration reform on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Oct. 23, 2013. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

Democratic leaders reiterated their call for a House vote on immigration reform on Wednesday, the same day Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said he is “hopeful” the vote will occur this year.

Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-Calif.) said at a press conference outside the U.S. Capitol building that he and his party “are ready” to pass an immigration reform bill this year. Meanwhile, Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said the “only group” that is not pushing for immigration reform seems to be the Republican majority in the House.

Becerra and Hoyer joined other Democrats at the press conference to call for a vote on a bill that House Democrats introduced earlier this month. The bill contains many of the same elements, such as a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, that are found in the Gang of Eight’s immigration reform bill the Senate approved in June. So far, more than 180 Democrats have signed up as sponsors of the House bill.

It’s very unlikely that Boehner will allow a vote on the Democrat’s immigration reform bill. However, he expressed optimism on Wednesday about the House voting on immigration reform legislation before the end of this year.

“I still think that immigration reform is an important subject that needs to be addressed, and I am hopeful,” he told reporters.

Some House Republicans are mobilizing on immigration reform

Though House Republicans haven’t brought up an immigration bill to the House floor for a vote this year, there are some positive signs that indicate Republicans are mobilizing to get immigration reform legislation done this year.

So far, House committees have approved five immigration bills, including one to ramp up border security, one to allow foreign agricultural workers to temporarily come to the U.S. and one to increase the number of visas for high-skilled immigrants.

None of the approved immigration bills address what to do with the 11.7 million undocumented immigrants currently living in the U.S. But that could soon change. That’s because several House Republicans, including Reps. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.) and Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), are working on separate bills to address the status of undocumented immigrants. It’s likely that their bills will include a path to legal status.

Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), chairman of the Judiciary Committee, has also said Republicans are crafting four additional immigration bills. One of those bills would offer a path to citizenship for young undocumented immigrants, known as Dreamers, who have been living in the U.S. ever since they were children.

When it comes to a path to citizenship for all of undocumented immigrants, not just Dreamers, only a few Republicans support that. America’s Voice estimates 28 House Republican have publicly said they support immigration reform with a path to citizenship for the undocumented immigrant population.

Immigration reform advocates are cautiously optimistic of GOP

Ali Noorani, executive director of the National Immigration Forum, welcomed Boehner’s remarks and said it’s clear that House Republican leaders are “prioritizing” immigration reform.

“Congressmen Mario Díaz-Balart, Darrell Issa and Bob Goodlatte also have given positive signals recently,” Noorani stated. “These comments and reports from Republican leadership are certainly positive, and that’s why the momentum of support from our nation’s local conservative leaders only continues to build.”

Meanwhile, members of America’s Voice said they are “pleased” to see that House Republicans are working on legislation to address the immigration status of undocumented immigrants.

The pro-immigration reform group also presented Republicans with a list of provisions it would like to see in forthcoming immigration bills. The group said it will welcome bills that include an “inclusive” and “fair” path to citizenship and will reject any bill that includes provisions similar to those in the SAFE Act, a controversial enforcement-centered bill that would make an unlawful presence in the United States a federal crime

“We look forward to seeing critical details of the legislation being drafted and call on Republicans working on it to remember that nothing can pass that doesn’t attract significant Democratic support,” stated Frank Sharry, executive director of America’s Voice.

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