Will The House Immigration "Gang" Ever Release Its Bill?

PHOTO: Xavier Becerra speaks during the Im Ready for Immigration Reform campaign press conference at the House Triangle on April 15, 2013 in Washington, D.C.Kris Connor/Getty Images
Xavier Becerra speaks during the I'm Ready for Immigration Reform campaign press conference at the House Triangle on April 15, 2013 in Washington, D.C.

If you're waiting for the House of Representatives to produce a comprehensive immigration bill, you can go ahead and book that August trip to the beach.

A bipartisan group of seven lawmakers drafting a bill has agreed to push back the release of its long-awaited legislation until at least September, Politico reported on Wednesday.

Some details of the House group's bill have leaked out. But the product has been repeatedly sidetracked for a variety of reasons, including substantial policy disputes. This time, with the bill nearly complete, the delay appears to be a strategic decision by its authors.

Sources told Politico that introducing the bill now could doom it to failure. It would leave the group little time to sell the proposal to other members and the public before the August recess. Without a consensus on how to move forward on immigration in the House, the group could struggle to find supporters.

Those strategic concerns are valid, but that hasn't stopped immigrant-rights advocates from becoming frustrated that the group has not released a bill after years of work.

Marshall Fitz, director of immigration policy for the liberal Center for American Progress, believes that having the bill out in public would help pro-reform advocates because it includes a pathway to full citizenship.

"It's much harder to get a feel for the House Republican conference on what they feel about reform that would help the 11 million [undocumented immigrants] without a legislative vehicle," Fitz, a veteran of the 2006 and 2007 immigration debates, told Fusion. "It's harder to try and draw a bright line on who is for reform."

At the same time, Fitz agreed that releasing the bill now would be counterproductive.

The House has yet to vote on a series of small-bore bills that are supported by conservative Republicans. So far, those bills have addressed issues like border security and visas for tech workers, but it's unclear whether a smaller bill will emerge that deals with citizenship for undocumented immigrants.

The group working on the large-scale immigration plan seems to think it's better to let that play out before introducing their legislation, which contains a pathway to citizenship, an idea that the GOP has balked at thus far.

The comprehensive bill in the House will be designed to be a more conservative bill than the Senate's, while still allowing undocumented immigrants to seek citizenship, a key demand for Democrats, according to The Washington Post.

But it will still be hard to sell the bill to House Republicans. So even with these conservative measures included, the drafters will want every advantage they can get -- including more time to defend the legislation in the public eye.

So despite frustrations, some advocates realize this is the best way forward at this point.

"The punting doesn't make them irrelevant. They're trying to make the right strategic decision when to insert themselves into the process," Fitz said. "They want to release components of their bill at a time when this thing is cooking with gasoline. And right now it's not; it's on a simmer until at least September."