WASHINGTON (TIP): House Speaker John Boehner and other Republicans in Congress said Thursday, November 8 that they want to consider broad changes to immigration laws next year, after an election in which Hispanic voters turned out in force to help President Barack Obama win a second term. Lawmakers and the White House said their most immediate goal was averting the so-called fiscal cliff, the budget cuts and tax increases set to kick in next year.
Once that is done, the White House and its allies in Congress have said, a major objective in 2013 is an immigration overhaul that was one of the president’s promises in his first campaign for the White House. Republican leaders say they are also ready to take up the issue. “We understand that we can’t keep kicking this can down the road,” an aide to House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R., Va.), said Thursday. Legislation, the aide said, must include a broader plan for the estimated 11 million people living in the U.S. illegally. “We’re going to address the 11 million people,” the aide added. Mr. Boehner, in an interview Thursday with ABC News, said an immigration overhaul was on his agenda.
“This issue has been around far too long,” he said. “A comprehensive approach is long overdue, and I’m confident that the president, myself and others can find the common ground to take care of this issue once and for all.” A House Republican leadership aide said lawmakers had absorbed the election results and believe that Republican Mitt Romney’s tough stance on illegal immigration cost him Hispanic votes in the presidential election.
“But the details are very important and are going to be very hard,” the aide said about potential legislation. “It’s going to take a big commitment from both sides to try and resolve them.” White House officials have made quiet overtures to Republican senators, hoping to find allies in what may prove to be a major legislative battle of 2013. Advocates for revamping the immigration system are trying to arrange meetings with lawmakers, who return to Washington next week for the lame-duck session. They have asked to meet with GOP figures likely to influence the debate, including Mr. Cantor, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R., S.C.) and Sen. Marco Rubio (R., Fla.).
One question is whether Republicans would support a process to grant legal status or citizenship to those in the country illegally, a move backed by most Democrats but which many Republicans criticize as amnesty. The Republican Party platform, adopted at the GOP convention this summer, opposes “any form of amnesty” for people who intentionally violate immigration law, saying that it “rewards and encourages more law breaking” and puts those seeking to enter the country legally at a disadvantage. Immigration proposals never advanced in the last Congress, with some Republicans saying they were waiting for Mr. Obama to show leadership and others saying they didn’t want to take up the issue. Democrats said they couldn’t find enough Republicans willing to work with them.
Republicans have often said that Congress should shore up border security before writing new laws concerning those in the country illegally. Exit polls of Tuesday’s election showed that Mr. Romney won less than 30% of the Hispanic vote, a factor in his defeat in Colorado, Virginia and likely in Florida, where he trailed by a margin small enough that the Associated Press on Thursday hadn’t yet declared a winner.
Mr. Romney had presented himself as an advocate of legal immigration but staked out a position to the right of his rivals during the Republican primaries, criticizing Texas Gov. Rick Perry for supporting in-state college tuition benefits for illegal immigrants and Newt Gingrich for saying some longtime illegal immigrants should gain legal status. He also called for “self-deportation” of illegal immigrants.