If House Republicans return from their annual retreat with an agreement to tackle immigration reform, they could consider as many as eight separate measures, including legislation that would legalize the 11 million immigrants living here unlawfully, a bill to create a new visa system for immigrant workers without college degrees, and proposals to boost border security.
“At this point, there is no decision and no consensus on how the bills come to the floor,” a Republican close to the negotiations told the Washington Examiner. “Border security will most likely be first, but once you get past that, it’s up in the air.”
House Republicans have firmly rejected taking up the Senate-passed immigration-reform measure, a comprehensive bill that combines border security with a pathway to citizenship.
Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, on Thursday endorsed the approach of taking up the issue “in bite-sized pieces,” which has already begun in the House.
“It helps our constituents build more confidence that what we're doing makes sense,” Boehner said at the GOP retreat in Cambridge, Md.
House committees last year approved three border-security measures and two bills aimed at boosting the nation’s immigrant workforce.
In addition, two proposals are in the works, authored separately by Reps. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., and Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Fla., that would provide legal status for those here illegally.
Here are the eight proposals Republicans could choose to put on the floor for a vote in the coming year.
· Legalization: Issa’s bill would require those here illegally to pay a fine before receiving provisional legal status that would last six years. After that time, an immigrant would have to apply for a green card or some other means to remain in the country legally or face deportation. Diaz-Balart is also working on a legalization bill. His version would grant legalization in stages, dependent on implementing border security improvements.
· New visa program for low-skilled workers: Reps. Raul Labrador, R-Idaho, and Ted Poe, R-Texas., are writing legislation that would allow immigrants who lack college degrees or who are not high-skilled to remain here permanently under a newly created visa program. The measure could be limited to occupations experiencing a worker shortage. Similar language is included in the Senate-passed comprehensive immigration bill.
· Kids Act: Similar to the Dream Act favored by Democrats, it would provide a path to citizenship for people who were brought to the United States as children. Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., is the sponsor.
· Increase in STEM workers: This legislation, which has been approved by the House Judiciary Committee, would greatly increase the number of green cards and visas provided to foreign workers skilled in science, technology, engineering and math.
· Guest worker program: Another House Judiciary-approved bill, it would create “a new and temporary agricultural guest worker program aimed at providing farmers with a more reliable workforce.”
· E-Verify program: Employers would be legally required to use an electronic verification system to ensure job applicants are not here illegally.
· Increased enforcement of immigration laws: States and local governments would be granted the power to enforce federal immigration laws, alongside expanding the visa security program and giving border patrol agents better access and ability to increase security.
· Control of illegal immigration: The measure, which passed the House Homeland Security panel last year, sets a specific timeline that would require at least a “90 percent illegal border crossing effectiveness rate” and “significant reduction” in border drug-trafficking.