According to House “Gang of Eight” Member Rep. John Yarmuth (D-KY), the group is “very close” to releasing its comprehensive immigration reform bill. “We’ve really resolved all of the truly contentious issues,” Yarmuth announced in an interview last Wednesday. (MSNBC, Mar. 27, 2013) “I’m very optimistic… In our group, everybody is really committed to getting this done. We know we have to deal with the immigration issue and this is the best opportunity we’ve had in generations.” (Id.)
Anonymous sources familiar with the negotiations elaborated on the aspects of the plan dividing the bipartisan group. According to the sources, the House Gang has yet to reach consensus on the following issues: a path to citizenship, reforming the visa process for high-tech workers, and the process for introducing and voting on a bill. (Politico, Apr. 1, 2013)
Specifically, the group plans to attempt to make the bill more palatable to the American people by calling the citizenship provision a “pathway to status.” Under this “pathway,” it will take approximately 20 years for an amnestied illegal alien to become a U.S. citizen once the border is deemed secure. (Id.) The newly amnestied aliens would obtain a green card after 10 years and pay back taxes, a “hefty” penalty, gain English proficiency, and make an admission that they broke the law. (Id.) Then, the amnestied alien could gain citizenship in another 10 years. (Id.)
The length of time to obtain citizenship is designed to make the bill appear less costly. Specifically, the Congressional Budget Office, which is charged with assessing the budgetary impact of a bill, can only consider a 10-year period to reach its estimate. Thus, the group’s 20-year plan skirts the CBO’s scoring ability. (Id.) Additionally, the bipartisan group plans to offset the cost of securing the border by increasing visa fees and Republicans in the group want to make the amnestied aliens ineligible for entitlement programs. (Id.)
The Republican members of the group are debating internally and in consultation with House Leadership on how to proceed with legislation because the House is poised to take a piecemeal approach to immigration reform. (Id.) Although three committees have jurisdiction on immigration issues — Judiciary, Education and Workforce, and Homeland Security — Republicans are considering only going through the Judiciary Committee or even bypassing the committee process entirely. (Id.) The sources revealed that it is essential for Gang of Eight Member Rep. Raul Labrador (R-ID) to sign off on the deal to ensure eventual passage. (Id.)
Yarmuth declared that the House bipartisan group is playing the more important role towards eventual passage of legislation because it would ensure Republican support and guaranteed passage of an amnesty bill. “One of the things that we’re dealing with is the issue of making sure House Republicans, who are in the majority, are comfortable with whatever package comes to the floor of the House,” Yarmuth said. (MSNBC, Mar. 27, 2013) “The sensitivity is would House Republicans be open to a bill that comes from a Democratic-controlled Senate or from a Democratic President. That’s why we think our effort is most important. If we can get one through the House then the odds of actually getting it signed into law improve a lot.” (Id.)
Yarmuth also indicated that Members of the House Gang of Eight have been talking with their Senate counterparts, who also claim to be nearly finished with their amnesty bill. “The bottom line is we’re very close,” declared Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY). (The Hill, Mar. 27, 2013) “I’d say we’re 90 percent there. We have a few little problems to work on,” Schumer said, but he indicated that the Senators were working together during the two-week recess to complete their negotiations. (Id.)
Both “Gangs” are expected to introduce their respective pieces of legislation the week of April 8.