- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 2, 2014

Republican leaders said Sunday that their immigration plan centers around tightening border security before looking at opportunities for legal residency, while the Obama administration said it can’t support a plan that doesn’t include a path to citizenship.

“We don’t trust the president to enforce the law,” Rep. Paul Ryan, Wisconsin Republican, said Sunday on ABC’s “This Week with George Stephanopoulos.” “First, we have to secure the border, have interior enforcement, which is a worker verification system, a visa tracking program. Those things have to be in law, in practice and independently verified before the rest of the law can occur.”

Without Democratic support to secure the border, Mr. Ryan said getting a bill on the president’s desk this year is “clearly in doubt.”

In a brief document circulated at the GOP policy retreat last week in Maryland, Republicans unveiled a plan to move forward on immigration reform, including changing the system to make it more difficult for immigrants to move their families to America, closing the gates to future illegal immigrants and giving young illegal immigrants a chance to become citizens.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, Virginia Republican, said Republicans still support a step-by-step reform rather than a comprehensive overhaul. It’s smart to talk about the “Dreamers” — young illegal immigrants brought to the U.S. as children and raised here — he said, since the majority of both parties believe they should have a path to citizenship.

“Most people say this country has never held kids liable for the misdeeds of their parents,” Mr. Cantor said Sunday on CBS’ “Face the Nation.” “Certainly we ought to take care of that problem. That should come first because it just makes sense to start where we can find agreement.”

The GOP plan unveiled at the retreat offers these young people the chance to become Americans, but offers a shot only at legal residency — not citizenship — for other illegal immigrants. While any Republican plan is a step forward, this limiting factor is not acceptable to President Obama, Denis McDonough, White House chief of staff, said Sunday on “Face the Nation.”

“We don’t want to have a permanent separation of classes or two permanent different classes of Americans in this country. We’re just not going to live with that,” he said. “So this is an important first step. We’ll see how this plays out. Our job now is to stand back, see how the House Republicans handle this.”

Because there is no time limit on making any reforms, Mr. Ryan said Republicans will not be forced into a compromise deal that is unacceptable to them.

“This is not one of those issues where it has some kind of a deadline behind like, say, a government shutdown, which forces us into a compromise we might not like to take. This is a, ‘Here are our standards; this is our approach; if you want to do it this way, this is what we’re willing to do,’” he said.

Both Mr. Cantor and Mr. Ryan restated that the House would not go to conference on the Senate immigration bill, which passed the upper chamber in 2013.

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal said mid-term election politics shouldn’t dictate Republicans’ efforts at immigration reform.

“If Republicans act, I think we should do it because it’s the right thing to do for the country. Let’s not do it because some pollster says so,” Mr. Jindal said Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

Allowing more immigrants into the country is good for them, but it’s also good for America to have more residents who get an education and work hard, said Mr. Jindal.

“What I believe we need is a system of high walls and a broad gate,” he said. “I think this is a problem we can address and our system now is completely backwards.”

While immigration is a widely-talked about issue, Mr. Cantor said the House will also focus on job growth and the economy this year, which he believes are of greater concern to most Americans.

“I believe that you’re going to see us in Congress not only continue this discussion on immigration, but we want to try and get to the heart of the issues that are affecting most Americans,” he said.

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