While the Senate appears on the cusp of a compromise to beef up border security in its immigration overhaul, House Speaker John Boehner stressed today that securing the border must be a hallmark of legislation in the lower chamber in order to win over support of Republicans.
"Let me be clear about one thing: America needs to secure our borders and reform our immigration laws, but immigration reform must - and I mean, must - be grounded in real border security," Boehner, R-Ohio, said today during a news conference at the Capitol. "That's what the American people believe, and it's the principle that this House majority will insist upon."
Boehner also stressed that immigration overhaul "should not be enacted without broad bipartisan support" in order to win approval of the American people," and he laid out four principles that will guide the lower chamber's efforts to fix the nation's immigration laws.
"First and foremost, that means confidence that our borders are secure; confidence that those who came here illegally are not given special treatment; confidence that hardworking taxpayers are being respected; and confidence that a majority of both parties have had their say and support the final product," he said.
While the speaker specified the elements of what he envisions in a successful package, Boehner would not comment on the merits of a pathway to citizenship for the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants already in the country. President Obama has said he will not sign an immigration bill without a pathway to citizenship.
"My job isn't to try to impose my will on 434 other members," he said. "My job is to try to facilitate a discussion and build bipartisan support for a product that will address this broken immigration system that we have."
Earlier this week, however, Boehner pledged not to bring an immigration bill to the House floor without support from a majority of House Republicans.
Asked whether he believe the Senate's efforts to improve border security meet his objectives, Boehner said he had not yet seen the details of the proposal, which first emerged late Wednesday night and will be introduced in the Senate this afternoon.
"Regardless of what the Senate does, the House is going to work its will," Boehner said. "The committees are doing their work. I've met with the Hispanic Caucus yesterday. I've talked to members on both sides of the aisle extensively about this issue."
Boehner also revealed that the House Republican Conference will hold a "special" meeting, likely July 9, after the Independence Day recess.
"There's going to be a broad discussion of this, and now that hopefully will determine, you know, what the way forward is," he said. "This is a very difficult issue. If it weren't a difficult issue, it would have been dealt with sometime over the last 15 years.
"It's a political football that's been kicked around and kicked around. I made it clear the day after the election I thought it was time for Congress to deal openly and honestly with this problem, and I want to deal with the problem."