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January 31, 2014

House Republicans debate next move on immigration

CAMBRIDGE, Md. — House Republicans wrestled inconclusively with the outlines of immigration legislation Thursday night, sharply divided over the contentious issue itself and the political wisdom of acting on it in an election year.

At a three-day retreat on the frozen banks of the Choptank River on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, GOP leaders circulated an outline that would guide the drafting of any House Republican legislation on the subject — a document that Speaker John Boehner told the rank and file was as far as the party was willing to go.

It includes a proposed pathway to legal status for millions of adults who live in the U.S. unlawfully — after they pay back taxes and fines — but not the special route to citizenship that President Barack Obama and many Democrats favor.

Many younger Americans brought to the country illegally by their parents would be eligible for citizenship.

“For those who meet certain eligibility standards, and serve honorably in our military or attain a college degrees, we will do just that,” the statement said.

The principles also include steps to increase security at the nation’s borders and workplaces, declaring those a prerequisite for any of the other changes.

Many conservatives reacted negatively during the closed-door session in which rank and file debated the issue, in part on political grounds and in part out of opposition to granting legal status to immigrants in the country illegally.

“This is really a suicide mission for the Republican Party,” Rep. John Fleming, R-La., said. “While we’re winning in the polls, while ‘Obamacare’ is really dismantling, big government concepts of Democrats and Obama disintegrating, why in the world do we want to go out and change the subject and revive the patient?”

Underscoring the complex political situation, some Democrats reacted hopefully to the principles, even though the proposal for legal status falls short of the full citizenship that was included in a bipartisan measure that cleared the Senate last year with the support of Obama.

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