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House Democrats push back on Boehner’s immigration comments

Scripps Howard Foundation Wire Service
U.S. Capitol building.

WASHINGTON – House Democrats in Texas and Florida – two key states affected by immigration reform – said the latest comments from Republicans on immigration sound like excuses.

In a press conference Thursday, House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, all but killed hopes of passing immigration reform in the House this year. He pointed to mistrust of President Barack Obama from his party’s caucus.

“There’s widespread doubt about whether this administration can be trusted to enforce our laws, and it’s going to be difficult to move any immigration legislation until that changes,” Boehner said, echoing rhetoric heard from several Republicans this week.

Boehner’s comments were an about-face from a week ago, when the party’s leaders raised hopes of reform with a set of principles called, “Standards for Immigration Reform,” which emphasized border security.

Rep. Beto O’Rourke, D-Texas, who represents the El Paso area, said any reform passed by Congress should be able to withstand any administration.

“I think we should craft legislation that will stand the test of time and the test of different administrations,” O’Rourke said. “We need to make law that’s good for the long term interest for this country.”

O’Rourke said immigration in the House isn’t completely stalled yet, but he said there are problems with both the Senate bill passed in June and the guidelines previously floated by Republican party leaders.

“There are significant problems with it. I’m looking at the focus on securing the border at a time that we’re spending $18 billion a year,” O’Rourke said. “In the last seven to eight years, you’ve seen a doubling of the border patrol, a doubling of the total amount we’re spending in the border.”

El Paso, which lies on the border with Mexico, has been named the safest city in America for the last three years consecutively by CQ Press’s annual City Crime Rankings. O’Rourke said the number of immigrants caught crossing into the United States is at its lowest level in 40 years.

“In other words, the border is as safe as it has ever been, and we’re already spending significant resources on it,” O’Rourke said.

Rep. Filemon Vela, D-Texas, who represents the border town of Brownsville, said he isn’t opposed to increasing border security but opposes tying it to the legalization process.

“I have a real problem with conditioning the legalization process with border security,” Vela said. “What you’re doing is setting up the whole legalization process up for failure. I think it’s a misguided approach.”

Texas Republican Representatives Blake Farenthold, Michael Conaway, Mac Thornberry and Randy Neugebauer did not respond to requests for comment.

In Florida, Rep. Lois Frankel, D-Fla., who represents most of the Palm Beach County area, said Boehner’s statements are “a lame excuse.”

Like many Democrats in the House, Frankel is apprehensive about passing border control legislation without moving forward on the other issues, such as a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.

However, Frankel said she isn’t rejecting a piecemeal approach.

“I don’t want to just see our immigration reform be more border security unless it’s going to come with some of the other issues we care about,” Frankel said.

Reach reporter Melhor Leonor at [email protected] or 202-326-9861. SHFWire stories are free to any news organization that gives the reporter a byline and credits the SHFWire.

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House Democrats push back on Boehner’s immigration comments