House Speaker John Boehner recently vowed never to go to conference over the Senate immigration-reform bill, but he still intends to forge an immigration bill that largely achieves the same things, according to Center for Immigration Studies Executive Director Mark Krikorian.
Krikorian also told WND House Republicans have stiffened their resolve against amnesty as a result of the recent government shutdown battle and the disastrous rollout of Obamacare.
Last week, many opponents of the Senate bill rejoiced when Boehner announced the House would not be part of any negotiations involving the bill.
"The idea that we're going to take up a 1,300-page bill that no one had ever read, which is what the Senate did, is not going to happen in the House," Boehner said. "And frankly, I'll make clear that we have no intention of ever going to conference on the Senate bill."
Krikorian said that is an encouraging sign from Boehner because that statement is very different from his original intentions.
"I've talked to people on the inside and this really was the plan that he's now backed away from, was to pass a border security bill and then go to conference with the Senate," Krikorian said. "In other words, (he wanted to) negotiate with the Senate and stick the Senate bill into the House bill and present it to House members as an accomplished fact that they have to vote for."
While that approach has been thwarted, Boehner admitted at the same press conference that he is still pursuing major immigration legislation in this Congress through the work of the House Judiciary Committee and chairman Bob Goodlatte.
"Chairman Goodlatte is working with our members and across the aisle, developing a set of principles that will help guide us as we deal with this issue," Boehner said. "I want us to deal with this issue, but I want to deal with it in a common sense, step-by-step way."
For Krikorian, this is a much better approach to lawmaking, but one that will likely end up with a product not much different than the Senate produced.
"What the House is planning to do is pass targeted, smaller bills dealing with particular issues, which is just a much more responsible way to make law, instead of a thousand-page Obamacare-style monstrosity," Krikorian said. "But what they're hoping is that they will be able to put all those together and come up with a bill that does the same thing as the Senate bill. So the danger still exists."
Krikorian said the Judiciary Committee has passed some provisions out of committee, including the SAFE Act, which he calls "a pretty good enforcement bill" allowing local and state police to work closely with immigration authorities. But another bill that has cleared committee and others likely coming down the pike give him great concern.
"They've also passed a bill to import more foreign farm workers and amnesty some that are already here," he said. "Another bill would give green cards to people who have gone to technical education in the United States."
Krikorian added, "What they're working on is a bill to amnesty the 'DREAMers,' illegal aliens who came here as kids and another bill, this is the talk anyway, which would amnesty all the other illegal aliens. But instead of giving them a green card, which would lead to citizenship, what I've heard is they're talking about just giving them work visas that would make them legal but wouldn't lead to citizenship. It's still amnesty. It would legalize everybody. So there's still going to be a lot of fun and games over the next year on immigration."
One of the reasons Boehner is abandoning any hopes of a conference with the Senate bill is the growing resistance to the bill in the House GOP conference. Krikorian chalks that up to the fallout of the government shutdown and the bungled Obamacare roll-out. He sees both tactical and policy reasons for the GOP to hold firm against what he considers amnesty.
"I'm not sure so much that those Republican members on the fence actually changed their thinking. I think what happened is the government shutdown and, even more recently, the complete debacle of Obamacare has hardened views so that people say, 'Look, we're not going to cooperate with these guys. We're not going to give Obama his signature second-term victory,'" Krikorian said.
"The only thing he has left now that would salvage the wreckage of his administration is an amnesty. Why any Republican, even if they agreed with him, would save President Obama's political fortunes is beyond me," he said.
At the same time, Krikorian said no one on the right is going to touch a comprehensive approach to anything after watching what happened with Obamacare.
"It's an extraordinarily complicated thing," he explained. "After the incompetence we've seen with the Obamacare roll-out, does anybody think, even if you thought it was a good idea, that this administration could successfully implement all that stuff? No, they'd screw that up, too. Obamacare and the government shutdown, which is obviously related to it, make the whole immigration thing just a whole lot less likely to happen."
Obamacare and immigration reform collided in a different way in recent days, as Rep. Jared Polis, D-Colo., suggested giving legal status to illegal immigrants would get them into our health-care system and help drive costs down.
"American citizens are essentially being forced to pay for the health care costs of people who are here illegally every day, until we pass comprehensive reform," Polis said. "We're wondering why rates are going up. It's no surprise. When somebody doesn't have insurance, their costs are shifted onto other people that do."
Krikorian said that doesn't pass the laugh test.
"It's kind of hilarious, actually. This is the kind of thing I would expect from (Democratic National Committee Chairwoman) Debbie Wasserman Schultz, it's so dopey," mused Krikorian, who notes the Senate bill specifically forbids illegal immigrants from enrolling in Obamacare for a decade after the bill passes.
"Because illegal immigrants are low-income, if they're legalized and can sign up for Obamacare, they would be much more likely to get the taxpayer subsidies that other people are paying. It would actually cost taxpayers more," Krikorian said. "This is just another example of a Democratic congressman who doesn't know what he's talking about."