Congress’ window for passing immigration reform this year is narrowing and it is unclear when the House of Representatives will take it up, according to an influential Republican congressman.
Immigration is getting crunched by events, such as congressional votes on a military strike on Syria, extending the debt ceiling, and funding the federal government. And the votes don’t yet exist to pass a reform package that would legalize undocumented immigrants, Rep. Raúl Labrador said this week.
“We don’t know exactly when we’re going to be able to have this debate,” Labrador (Idaho) told Univision news anchor Jorge Ramos, during a Spanish-language interview that will air on “Al Punto” this Sunday. “A lot of us thought that the debate was going to be in October, but now, with the problems that we’re having internationally and also here in this country, I don’t see how we’re going to be able to have this debate until November. And I really don’t know if it will be possible to do it in November.”
That message is unwelcome news to supporters of immigration reform, who hoped to parlay a positive August recess into swift action in the House.
Labrador is not a member of House GOP leadership, so he does not control when votes will happen. But he has worked on the issue -- formerly as a member of a bipartisan group drafting a comprehensive bill -- and he is plugged into internal party politics on immigration.
But, as Labrador said, political and policy disagreements are not the only thing holding immigration reform back. The calendar is too. The House only has 39 more scheduled legislative days left this year. And the aforementioned debates over Syria and fiscal issues could eat up a bunch of that time.
Labrador believes if immigration reform does not pass in 2013, it’s even less likely to do so next year because of the looming mid-term elections.
“I think that if we don’t do it now, in 2013, it’s not going to be--it’s not going to happen in 2014,” he said. “And that means that we’re going to have to wait until 2015. So now, that time is -- it’s becoming a lot shorter.”
The politics matter too. Some Republicans, including Labrador, say they favor a limited path to citizenship that would leave out many of the 11 million undocumented immigrants. He also wants to expand levels of legal immigration. But the Idaho congressman acknowledged that his ideas face resistance from members of both parties.
President Obama and Democrats have claimed that, between Democrats and a sliver of Republicans, there is enough votes in the House to pass comprehensive immigration reform. Labrador disputed that idea.
“There are a lot of Republicans who don’t agree with me, and in fact there are a lot of Democrats who don’t agree with me about this because they think that unions and other people want [worker visas] numbers to be really, really small,” he said. “So I think it’s a debate that we have to have, and at this time I don’t think the votes are there in the House of Representatives.”