IN THE CAPITAL: Immigration Reform: 3 Key Principles in the House Republican Immigration Proposal

Communications Associate

January 30, 2014

By Ayobami Olugbemiga

House Speaker John Boehner and the GOP leadership unveiled on Thursday a set of guiding principles to address immigration reform, including a path to legalization for undocumented workers if they are willing to “get right by the law” and “accept culpability.”

The memo – Standards for Immigration Reform – was distributed to House Republicans at their annual GOP retreat in Cambridge, Maryland. “The overriding purpose of our immigration system is to promote and further America’s national interests and that is not the case today,” the leaders write. “The serious problems in our immigration system must be solved, and we are committed to working in a bipartisan manner to solve them.”

Here are 3 key principles outlined in the document:

  1. Border Security: The House leaders emphasized that all other aspects of their immigration reform agenda is contingent on securing the borders first. “It is the fundamental duty of any government to secure its borders, and the United States is failing in this mission,” they write. “We must secure our borders now and verify that they are secure.”  Their blueprint also calls for reforms to ensure that President Obama cannot unilaterally stop immigration enforcement.
  2. Path to Legal Status: According to the authors, the blueprint does not include a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants because “that would be unfair to those immigrants who have played by the rules and harmful to promoting the rule of law.” Rather, their plan provides a pathway for legalization if undocumented immigrants are “willing to admit their culpability, pass rigorous background checks, pay significant fines and back taxes, develop proficiency in English and American civics, and be able to support themselves and their families (without access to public benefits).”  They also added that those who are criminals, gang members and sex offenders are ineligible for the legalization process.
  3. Legalization and Citizenship for Dreamers: The Republican blueprint includes a pathway to legal status and citizenship for children of undocumented immigrants who were brought to America at a young age. “One of the great founding principles of our country was that children would not be punished for the mistakes of their parents,”  the blueprint reads. “It is time to provide an opportunity for legal residence and citizenship for those who were brought to this country as children through no fault of their own, those who know no other place as home.” They added: “For those who meet certain eligibility standards, and serve honorably in our military or attain a college degree, we will do just that.”

Immigration reform advocates were encouraged and generally pleased with the Republican framework for immigration reform. Campaign for an Accountable, Moral and Balanced Immigration Overhaul (CAMBIO) issued a statement Thursday that read in part, “It is encouraging to see the House leadership moving, however tentatively, toward reforming our country’s broken immigration laws. But it is equally important that the Congress and the President move to restore justice and balance to the way current and future laws are enforced.”

The National Immigration Forum also issued a statement commending Republicans for showing “sincere intentions” to tackle immigration reform. “With today’s release of these standards, House leaders are showing their sincere intentions to take action on commonsense immigration reform this Congress,” Ali Noorani, Executive Director of the National Immigration Forum said in a statement. “Republicans and Democrats now must commit to a respectful debate that moves us forward as a nation of immigrants and a nation of laws.”