After President Obama makes his State of the Union speech on Tuesday night, House Republicans will abscond to Eastern Maryland for a three-day retreat. There, The New York Times reports, leaders will circulate the party's new plan for immigration reform. The plan includes a path to citizenship for Dreamers (the children of illegal immigrants) and a path to legal status for undocumented adults. This will ruffle some conservatives' feathers for a couple reasons.
First, some conservatives hear "legal status" and automatically think "amnesty." Though House Majority Leader Eric Cantor insists, "One of the great founding principles of our country was that children would not be punished for the mistakes of their parents," some don't even want Dreamers to be given a path to citizenship. Radio host Laura Ingraham's tweet from Monday evening sums up the extreme conservative view on immigration reform pretty neatly: that any path to citizenship or legal status is amnesty, that illegal immigrants will become Democratic voters, and that illegal immigrants add little value to the country.
Ingraham certainly isn't helping the GOP look more welcoming to Latinos.
But while most conservatives won't go so far as to say that undocumented people are bad for the country, they still aren't interested in reform before the midterm elections. A recent National Review editorial argued, "The last thing the party needs is a brutal intramural fight when it has been dealt a winning hand." That winning hand, conservatives reason, is Obamacare.
Still, younger party leaders think the GOP needs to embrace comprehensive reform. At the Republican National Committee meeting last week, Arizona state Senator and GOP "rising star" Kimberly Yee insisted,
We need to wrap our arms carefully around comprehensive immigration reform. This is a conversation we’ve got to wrap our arms around. It’s not easy, it’s going to take some time, but as Republicans, I think the message we should have is that we are for every community and we stand for what they want. So we need to bring everyone to the table and do that successfully.
The four other "rising stars" (all women) agreed.
Democrats and Republicans may be able to find some middle ground with the Republicans' new plan. While the Democrat-backed Senate bill includes a path to citizenship for children and adults who came into the country illegally, the Republican plan, which is really just a "statement of principles," provides a path to citizenship for Dreamers only. This could possibly allay Republican fears that embracing immigration reform means handing Democrats 11 million new voters. Under the Republican plan, undocumented adults would be still be offered a path to "legal status."
Still, the likelihood that the GOP comes to full agreement and puts this plan in action before November is slim. The Times reports, "the document has the feel more of an attempt to test the waters than a blueprint for action."