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Friday, February 7, 2014

Immigration Reform Stalled In Washington

U.S. Speaker of the House Rep. John Boehner (R-OH) speaks during his weekly news conference February 6, 2014 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

U.S. Speaker of the House Rep. John Boehner (R-OH) speaks during his weekly news conference February 6, 2014 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

It looks like immigration reform may be going nowhere fast. House Speaker John Boehner signaled last week that House Republicans would move forward on immigration reform. But yesterday, he said his caucus is unlikely to move forward until the president gains Republicans’ trust.

“The president is asking us to move one of the biggest bills of his presidency, and yet he’s shown very little willingness to work with us on the smallest of things,” Boehner said in the news conference.

Jorge Ramos, host of “America with Jorge Ramos” on Fusion, as well as various news programs on Univision, joins Here & Now’s Jeremy Hobson to discuss what’s happening on the immigration front in Washington.





And we started this week with some encouraging signs for proponents of immigration reform. Republicans on Capitol Hill were talking about plans to pass piecemeal reform measures. But yesterday House Speaker John Boehner said that even though he had high hopes for moving the legislation forward, his Republican caucus's distrust of President Obama may keep him from doing so.

REPRESENTATIVE JOHN BOEHNER: The president is asking us to move one of the biggest bills of his presidency, and yet he has shown very little willingness to work with us on the smallest of things, whether it's the SKILLS Act, a couple of other bills. The president can reach out and work with us on those and begin the process of rebuilding the trust between the American people and his presidency.

HOBSON: So is that it for immigration reform for now? Joining us from Doral, Florida is Jorge Ramos, Univision news anchor and host of "America with Jorge Ramos" on Fusion. Jorge, welcome back.

JORGE RAMOS: Thank you.

HOBSON: Well, let's talk about what's happening here. Just last week, the GOP unveiled these standards for immigration reform, which include a path to legal status for 11 million undocumented immigrants in this country, tougher border security, a path to citizenship for kids who were brought into the country illegally. And now, based on what we're hearing from John Boehner, it sounds like they're backing away.

RAMOS: I think so. And it is very confusing for many people within the Hispanic community because they felt that these lists of standards on immigration reform was the beginning of a debate, and it was welcomed by millions in the Hispanic community. And just a few days later, they're saying, no, I'm sorry, that's not exactly what we meant. Really at this point we can only blame Republicans and Speaker John Boehner for blocking immigration reform.

And it seems that they did this political calculation that they can wait. They can wait until next year or maybe 2016 for immigration reform. What they have to know is that Latinos will remember and that they will blame Republicans. And if they continue doing this, and blocking immigration reform, Republicans will lose again the White House in 2016.

HOBSON: But they seemed to have made the calculation that they're better off - or at least some Republicans have made the calculation that they're better off not passing it than passing it.

RAMOS: Exactly. I understand that. But I think they're wrong. I think - their talking points right now as you - as we listen to John Boehner and other Republicans, is that President Barack Obama is to blame for not having immigration reform. And we called on President Barack Obama for not keeping his promise in year 2009. But that was 2009. 2014, Republicans are to blame. If Speaker John Boehner wants to bring immigration reform to a vote, he can do it. He can do it tomorrow. But he simply won't do it.

It seems that they really don't get it. They don't understand that the Hispanic community is growing, that in 2016, 16 million voters will go to the polls, that, really, Republicans' future depends on the Hispanic vote and that before Latinos will really take another look on Republicans, they have to resolve immigration. But they simply are not taken seriously. And again, I think Hispanics will remember this moment.

HOBSON: Would Latinos, though, accept the idea that the Republicans were proposing, which is not a pathway to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented here but a path to legal status? It was a watered-down version of what the Senate had passed last summer.

RAMOS: Yeah. I think you're right. It is a very divisive issue within the Hispanic community because, as you know, many people think that it is un-American not to propose a path to citizenship. However, when you talk - and I do that every single day - when you talk to undocumented immigrants, what they tell you, what they tell me, is that the most important thing for them is to be able to be in this country legally, to work in this country, to go back to their country of origin if they have to, to visit their family, their parents, and that citizenship, it is - at least right now - not the most important thing.

So even President Barack Obama - when he gave an interview to CNN - he did say - he was moving. President Barack Obama clearly moving. He said that he was not going to veto any legislation that would include legalization without a path to citizenship. But I think Republicans understood clearly that this was not going to bring any votes to them. Legalization without a path to citizenship was going to be politically exactly the same thing for them in 2016 and they decided not to move on it.

HOBSON: But let's listen to what John Boehner said, because he did point the finger at President Obama. Here's a clip.

BOEHNER: Listen. 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.

HOBSON: Now, what about that, Jorge Ramos, the idea that the immigration - that the president is not enforcing the laws that are on the books - although we should note that there were 369,000 deportations last year in this country, which was nine times more than existed 20 years ago. There have been almost two million since Obama took office.

RAMOS: That's really ridiculous. Not enforcing the law? Well, talk to the almost two million undocumented immigrants who have been deported while President Obama has been in power, more than any other president in the history of the United States. Many people call him deporter-in-chief. So yes, clearly the border is more secured than ever before, than ever before. More people have been deported than ever before.

So really, what we have to do is something about the 11 million undocumented immigrants in this country. So it is ridiculous to blame President Barack Obama for not enforcing the law right now, and it is just an excuse for Republicans to not move on immigration reform. They really have to move on immigration reform, but they won't do it.

HOBSON: You don't think that they will. We just have a few seconds left, but you think the issue's dead?

RAMOS: I'm very pessimistic about that. And the consequences for Republicans will be felt in 2016.

HOBSON: Jorge Ramos from Univision and Fusion, thanks so much for speaking with us as always.

RAMOS: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson host Here & Now, a live two-hour production of NPR and WBUR Boston.

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