WASHINGTON (AP) — Hispanics, blacks, Asians and women who together stand as the majority in the House Democratic caucus publicly disparage Republicans' piecemeal approach to immigration and their pointed omission of any legalization path for the 11 million immigrants living here unlawfully.
Privately and pragmatically, Democrats recognize that the GOP's strategy may be their only route available to an historic policy change.
"House Democrats want to get this done," said Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-Texas, a second-generation Mexican-American. "We want to get immigration reform done in 2013 and it's on Republicans now who run the show in the House of Representatives to figure out how to work with us to get this done."
Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, who controls the agenda in the Republican-led House, has said flatly that lawmakers will not consider the bipartisan, Senate-passed bill with the promise of U.S. citizenship for millions and billions of dollars in new spending for more border security. That leaves Democrats with few options in their quest for the most sweeping immigration changes in a generation and a chance to deliver on President Barack Obama's top domestic priority.
The question of process and strategy is nettlesome for Democrats, but the single-issue bills pushed by Republicans represent the most expedient path to negotiations with the Democratic-controlled Senate and a chance for final, comprehensive legislation.
Publicly, Democrats are adamant.
"Piecemeal is no deal. Piecemeal is a deal-breaker," said Rep. Al Green, D-Texas.
But Democrats left the Capitol for their July 4th recess this week determined to rally support for immigration legislation and willing to support the single-issue bills as long as it gets them to talks with the Senate. Members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus who spoke privately with Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi last Friday made clear they wouldn't back the stand-alone GOP bills if Republicans expected the Senate to act on each one individually, a surefire path to legislative oblivion.