Immigration reform doesn’t seem to be headed towards passage in Congress anytime soon.
Members of the House of Representatives are not on the same page about what to do about the country’s 11 million undocumented immigrants.
But they have agreed that they’re not going to pass one big immigration reform bill like the Senate has, which includes a path to citizenship for those immigrants.
JEREMY HOBSON, HOST:
From NPR and WBUR Boston, I'm Jeremy Hobson.
MEGHNA CHAKRABARTI, HOST:
And I'm Meghna Chakrabarti in for Robin Young. It's HERE AND NOW. In a moment, why did the U.S. build a $34 million base in Afghanistan that nobody will ever use?
HOBSON: But first to Washington, where immigration reform does not seem to be headed towards passage in Congress anytime soon. Republicans in the House of Representatives are not on board with what the Senate passed, which would increase border security and allow a path to citizenship for the millions of immigrants who are here illegally.
The House is considering a piecemeal approach that does not include a pathway to citizenship. Joining us now for more from Washington is Alabama Congressman Mo Brooks. And Congressman Brooks, welcome.
REPRESENTATIVE MO BROOKS: Thank you, it's my pleasure.
HOBSON: Well, so why not go for comprehensive immigration reform? Why are House Republicans like yourself not interested in what the Senate has done?
BROOKS: Well no, I am interested in comprehensive immigration reform. The issue is that my definition of comprehensive immigration reform that is good for our country is diametrically different from the open borders, amnesty bill that passed the Senate.
HOBSON: Well, what would you like to do?
BROOKS: The most important thing is get a White House that will enforce the laws. We have laws now that deal with immigration. If those laws had been enforced over the last 20, 25 years by the residents of the White House, we would not have an illegal alien problem that now is in the neighborhood of 15 to 20 million people who are here who should not be here.
What I would do is support an immigration policy that focuses on one issue: Of the hundreds of millions of foreigners who want to immigrate to the United States of America, which ones are going to be producers? And by that I mean which ones are going to produce more in tax revenue than they're going to consume in tax revenue?
HOBSON: So you're suggesting that we have some sort of an economic production test for people to get citizenship in this country?
BROOKS: Absolutely. We face some very perilous economic circumstances because of these $4 trillion deficits that we have racked up, and we need to bring to America people who are going to produce more in tax revenue than they're going to consume.
HOBSON: Well, let's talk about border security. I mean, the Senate bill does address that in a significant way, and also you mentioned that the president isn't enforcing the laws, but aren't there more deportations now than there have been in a long time and a bigger fence than there's been in a long time?
BROOKS: This president has expanded on the catch and release program more so than any president in the history of the United States of America. We have law enforcement officers at the city, county and state level that are working hard to catch illegal aliens, and they do so, many of whom are involved in criminal activity or misdemeanor activity. And we try to get them deported, and under directions of the president of the United States, they are not deported.
HOBSON: Well, the Senate bill does address border security, so...
BROOKS: Not at all, not at all.
HOBSON: Well, it does. It increases by - it doubles the numbers of troops that are down on the border.
BROOKS: Well no, that's not true. OK, that is a projection of what they hope to do in about five to 10 years, as much as a decade away. By then, the horse is already out of the barn, OK. And by then if you pass an amnesty bill, which is what the Senate is doing, what's the message to the hundreds of millions of people around the world that want to come to America? Don't worry about our laws. Violate them because the United States of America, out of a sense of compassion or foolishness, whatever you want to talk about, is then going to give you a path to citizenship.
HOBSON: Congressman, are you worried, though, if you don't tackle the issue of the 11 million undocumented workers in the country now as part of a comprehensive bill, and give them a path to citizenship, that you're setting up the Republican Party for another round of failure in the coming elections because you're not addressing what Latinos are asking for?
BROOKS: Absolutely not. And I most strongly disagree with your premise that Latinos want lawbreakers, OK. The American citizens I know, regardless of heritage, regardless of race, they want people who will obey the law. And so I reject your premise, and I don't think that the people you're referring to support illegal conduct.
HOBSON: No, but they would like to have some pathway to citizenship for the people who are already here, not just send them back.
BROOKS: No, I disagree, not the American citizens I talk with. And I cannot in good conscience reward and ratify illegal conduct with my vote on the House floor.
HOBSON: So what do you see, Congressman Brooks, happening now in the House? What will happen this summer, anything?
BROOKS: I don't know what will happen in the House. If we did the right thing, we would ask the president to enforce the laws that are already on the books and tell him that we are not going to act on immigration reform until such time as he enforces the laws that are already on the books. But until he does that, I don't see any reason to give him something that is going to be counterproductive for America going forward, knowing full well that the things that are needed this president is going to ignore.
HOBSON: Congressman Mo Brooks, Republican of Alabama, thank you so much for joining us.
BROOKS: My pleasure, hope you have a good day.
HOBSON: Obviously some very strong views on immigration there. We're going to be hearing from a variety of voices on this issue in the days ahead. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.
Jeremy Hobson joins Robin Young as co-host of Here & Now in its new 2-hour format, from WBUR and NPR.
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