WASHINGTON – House Democrats pushing a comprehensive approach to overhauling the nation’s immigration system picked up the support of a third Republican on Wednesday.
Freshman Rep. David Valadao of California said he would back a measure that would provide a path to citizenship for the 11 million immigrants living here illegally and tighten border security. Valadao joins Republicans Reps. Jeff Denham of California and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida in announcing support for the Democratic bill.
Valadao signalled that his support for the measure was meant to increase pressure on House Republican leaders to act before year’s end. The Senate passed a comprehensive bill in June, but prospects remain murky for any House vote with just a few legislative weeks left.
“I have been working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to find common ground on the issue of immigration reform.” Valadao said in a statement. “Recently, I have focused my efforts on joining with likeminded Republicans in organizing and demonstrating to Republican leadership broad support within the party to address immigration reform in the House by the end of the year.”
Valadao said the House cannot wait on dealing with immigration.
Most House Republicans reject a comprehensive approach as well as the Senate bill, with many question offering citizenship to people who broke U.S. immigration laws to be in this country. The House Judiciary Committee has moved forward with individual, single-issue immigration bills.
Although House Republican leaders say they want to resolve the issue, which has become a political drag for the GOP, many rank-and-file House Republicans have shown little inclination to deal with it. The bitter standoff with President Barack Obama on the budget and near default further angered House Republicans, who have resisted any move that might give Obama an immigration overhaul, the top item on his second-term domestic agenda.
Numerous House Republicans are wary of passing any immigration legislation that would set up a conference with the Senate, fearing that they would lose out in final negotiations.
The Senate bill, strongly backed by the White House, includes billions for border security, a reworked legal immigration system to allow tens of thousands of high- and low-skilled workers into the country and a 13-year path to citizenship for the 11 million immigrants already here illegally.
The bill from House Democrats jettisoned the border security provision and replaces it with the Homeland panel’s version. That bill, backed by conservative Republicans and liberal Democrats, would require the homeland security secretary to develop a strategy to gain operational control of the border within five years and a plan to implement the strategy. It calls on the Government Accountability Office, Congress’ auditing and investigative arm, to oversee the steps being taken.
The bill doesn’t call for new spending, in contrast to the Senate bill, which includes $46 billion in new spending on drones, helicopters and other technology, a doubling of agents patrolling the border with Mexico and hundreds of miles of new fencing.
House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi of California said she was optimistic, although there has been no overt effort by House Republican leaders to move toward a vote.
“If this bill were brought to the floor, or a bill that is positive goes in a forward direction, while it might not meet every standard that we have in our bill, but takes us to the conference table in a positive way, we would be very enthusiastic about that,” Pelosi told reporters. “So as I said to the speaker: ‘However you want to do it, let’s just do it.'”