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Conservatives pessimistic on immigration reform in 2014

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Conservative Republicans said Wednesday that they don't believe their chamber will tackle an immigration bill this year, saying that while they welcomed the House GOP leaders' principles as a start to a conversation, it's premature to try to pass a bill.

Speaking at a Heritage Foundation event, Republican House members said they don't trust President Obama enough to follow through on the strict security measures the GOP would write into any bill, and said that must come first.

Rep. Raul Labrador, an Idaho Republican who last year was part of a group working on a broad immigration bill but who dropped out, scuttling the effort, said Mr. Obama should spend this year proving himself and then Republicans will act in 2015 if they win control of the Senate.

"We need to have the trust with this administration and that trust is not there, and until we have that trust there will be no immigration reform and it would be a mistake for leadership to push that," Mr. Labrador said.

House Speaker John A. Boehner last week released principles that called for more security but also called for illegal immigrants getting legal status, and for young adult illegal immigrants to have a specific pathway to citizenship.

But Mr. Boehner himself said Tuesday that Republicans still haven't decided whether to move forward with a bill this year.

Rep. Joe Barton, Texas Republican, said that while it's not the right time to actually move a broad bill, the principles themselves are helpful to "begin a dialogue with the Hispanic community on conservative principles."

The Senate passed a broad bill in June that includes citizenship rights for most illegal immigrants, clearing the measure on a bipartisan 68-32 vote. But even that legislation has run into problems.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican, who voted against the Senate bill, said Tuesday that he doesn't think there's any way to match that legislation up with what the House is talking about.

"I don't see how you get to an outcome this year with the two bodies in such a different place," he said.

Democrats had hoped the release of the principles would pave the way for an agreement this year.

But the two sides are still far apart on big questions.

House Republicans have insisted the issue be tackled in a series of bills, while the Senate passed one massive measure. House Republicans also have insisted border security must come first, while the Senate bill grants quick legal status to most illegal immigrants while concurrently working to add more manpower and technology to the border.

The biggest sticking point, however, is the questions of citizenship. The Senate bill would offer a new specific pathway that would let most illegal immigrants get citizenship in about 13 years. House Republicans' principles call for illegal immigrants to get some form of legal status, but only specifies a path to citizenship for young illegal immigrants, the so-called Dreamers brought to the U.S. by their parents, who are considered the most sympathetic cases.

 

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