A group of conservative House Republicans are digging in their heels on immigration against pressure from President Barack Obama to move immigration legislation.
The letter, signed by 16 Republicans, is just another example how tough it will be in the House to pass anything that involves legalizing the nation’s 11 million undocumented immigrants.
It could also serve as a sign of growing dissent among Republicans on the issue even as GOP House leadership has said passing immigration legislation is a priority in 2014.
The list of signers consists of a who’s who of those who oppose comprehensive proposals that would provide the undocumented a path to citizenship. They include Steve King of Iowa, Lamar Smith of Texas, and Michele Bachmann of Minnesota.
“We reject your call for the House to get an immigration bill to your desk that would permanently displace American workers,” the letter to Obama said.
The Senate passed comprehensive legislation last year that would increase border security and provide a path to citizenship for many of the nation's undocumented. House leadership has refused to take up the Senate bill and instead prefers to pass a series of bills that focus more on enforcement.
The White House reiterated this week that it expects the House to pass immigration legislation this year. Obama has left the door open by what method, dropping his demands that it be in one comprehensive bill. But he insists that any combination of bills moved by the House must include border enforcement as well as a path to citizenship for most of the nation’s undocumented community.
House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, told colleagues Wednesday that Republicans are working on a list of “principles” for immigration legislation that he will present in the coming weeks, according to reports from Politico and The Los Angeles Times.
Boehner has shown other signs that he’s intent on addressing immigration. Last year, he brought on a former immigration advisor to Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain, who has long backed immigration overhaul.
In their letter, the House members did not address Boehner's interest in immigration. They instead focused on Obama and charged that proposals he supports would increase competition for jobs. They pointed to research from economics professor George Borjas from the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, who has published studies that showed an influx of low-skilled immigrants in the '80s and '90s resulted in wages dropping for U.S.-born workers without a high school degree.
“Job number one for Congress should be to reduce the unemployment rolls, get families and communities out of poverty and government dependency, rebuild our deteriorating communities and collapsing middle class, and increase wages for American cities,” the House Republicans wrote to Obama. “Your immigration proposals do the exact opposite on every count.”