House Speaker John Boehner today praised the ongoing efforts of two bipartisan groups of congressional lawmakers, but he emphasized that an effective overhaul of the nation's immigration laws will take time.
"We've got our first hearing on the issue today in the Judiciary committee," Boehner, R-Ohio, said, as the House of Representatives begins its first hearing examining the country's immigration laws.
"This is not about being in a hurry. This is about trying to get it right on behalf of the American people and those who are suffering under an immigration system that doesn't work very well for anybody."
The House Judiciary Committee is holding its first hearing of the 113 th Congress on immigration, examining existing opportunities for legal immigration and whether the Obama administration is effectively enforcing the country's existing laws to target illegal immigration.
Boehner declined to estimate how soon legislation could pass through the lower chamber. In the House, a group of bipartisan lawmakers has labored secretly behind closed doors for years, while a separate group in the Senate last week unveiled its framework, which also addresses the conundrum of how to handle about 12 million illegal immigrants hiding in the shadows throughout the country.
"I want to applaud my colleagues on both sides of the Capitol and in both parties who have worked together to try to solve one of the bigger issues that we're dealing with in our country," Boehner said. "What I want to do is to encourage both sides of the Capitol and both parties to continue talking to one another so that we can resolve this issue in a bipartisan manner."
The Ohio Republican called efforts to address a pathway to citizenship "a very difficult part" of any potential legislation, and encouraged "members on both sides of the Capitol and both parties to continue to try to come to some resolution of that issue."
Later today, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor will deliver an address outlining the conference's agenda for the next year where he is also expected to touch on the GOP's revamped approach to immigration overhaul.
"While we are a nation that allows anyone to start anew, we are also a nation of laws, and that's what makes tackling the issue of immigration reform so difficult," Cantor, R-Va., will say, according to excerpts released by his office. "We must balance respect for the rule of law and respect for those waiting to enter this country legally, with care for people and families, most of whom just want to make a better life, and contribute to America."
Asked whether House Republicans need a makeover after focusing mostly on spending issues during their time in the majority the past two years, Boehner conceded his party must make a more concerted effort to appeal to a larger segment of the population.
"While there's a lot of focus on the deficit and the debt, there are a lot of other things that Republicans plan to do over the course of this year," Boehner said.
"If we're going to connect with the American people, it's important that they see not only that we're serious about solving our debt problem. But we're serious about addressing issues like energy, like education, to show really the breadth of the effort that we're involved in."