Promising Start to Immigration Reform Turns to Frustration

After a promising start in 2013, efforts to reform America’s immigration policies have stalled in the House of Representatives, and frustration is beginning to spread in the organizations that have worked on the issue, from agriculture, to the business community, to religious groups.

Democrats have said immigration reform should include a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, but many Republicans have said they will not support legislation containing such a provision. Instead, House Republicans are pursuing a number of smaller bills, each addressing a piece of the puzzle, including border security, agriculture workers, and high-skilled visas.

Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) and Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) are leading the immigration reform efforts, including a bill to legalize undocumented young people who came to the U.S. as children. But their efforts do not include any easy path to legalization for their parents, or any other currently undocumented workers. A seven-member bipartisan group in the House has been working for several months on comprehensive legislation with a path to citizenship, but they haven’t been able to find common ground on all issues, including how to deal with the extent to which those affected by immigration reform will be treated under the new healthcare reform law.

Rep. Cantor has said the House will hold a series of votes at some point, but he hasn’t been clear on the timing for them. Rep. Paul Ryan, Chair of the Budget Committee, has said the House will vote this fall on several reform components.

Since the Senate has already passed a comprehensive immigration reform bill, the ball is in the House’s court. The majority of Americans strongly believe that immigration reform must be dealt immediately, and that any legislation should address border security, currently undocumented workers, and the future flow of new workers. The process will continue this fall once Congress returns from its August recess.