There are more than 11 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S right now. 185 Democrats and two Republicans: House members who are currently supporting comprehensive immigration reform — including a pathway to citizenship.
Rep. Jeff Denham (CA) and Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (FL) became the first GOP members earlier this week to support broad reform. The bill — The Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act — was introduced Oct. 2 by Joe Garcia (D-FL).
The major thrust of the legislation is a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that around 7.7 million undocumented immigrants would qualify for legal status in the U.S.
The bill is largely based on the Senate's immigration bill, which easily passed 68-32 this summer. One of the “Gang of Eight” senators who drafted the bill, Marco Rubio (R-FL), has changed his position. He, alongside many House Republicans, wants the legislation done issue-by-issue rather than a comprehensive package. Rubio feels that a piecemeal approach would be more realistic to pass.
“I think that there are many things on immigration that we can agree on and I think that we should move on those and make progress on those issues,” Rubio told CNN. “And there are a handful that we have no consensus on in this country yet, and those issues may have to be delayed at some point until we can reach a consensus on how to approach them.”
This would mean a pathway to citizenship — a contentious issue — would have to wait.
President Obama called upon Congress to pass immigration reform last week. “It doesn't make sense to have 11 million people who are in this country illegally without any incentive or any way for them to come out of the shadows, get right with the law, meet their responsibilities and permit their families then to move ahead,” said the president. “It's not smart; it's not fair; it doesn't make sense. We have kicked this particular can down the road for too long.”
Americans overwhelmingly support a pathway to citizenship.
In June 2013, Gallup asked the question, “Would you vote for or against a law that would allow illegal immigrants living in the U.S. the opportunity to become citizens after a long waiting period if they paid taxes and a penalty, pass a criminal background check, and learn English?”
87 percent of respondents said yes, while only 12 percent said no.
While support of immigration reform remains widespread, there is plenty of skepticism. For one, both parties have had trouble agreeing on anything. This culminated in the government shutdown just two weeks ago.
They are also running out of time. As of Nov. 1, there will be 16 legislative days left in the House to pass a bill.
At the current tally, Democrats and the two GOP members are 30 votes shy of a majority.
BY MICHAEL SCOTT