The Free Press, Mankato, MN

State, national news

July 2, 2013

House Dems seek path to final immigration deal


Rewriting the nation's immigration rules is far more than an abstract policy debate for many House Democrats who are first- and second-generation Americans. The issue is a chance to pay tribute to grandparents and parents who sought and found opportunity in the United States.

These minorities add up to a majority in the Democratic caucus to pressure party leaders. Their presence also creates a pronounced racial and political divide in the House, where the large Republican caucus is overwhelmingly white and male, and underscores the difficulties for immigration legislation.

Of the 201 Democrats, less than half are white men while 41 are blacks, 25 are Hispanic and nine are Asian. There are 60 Democratic women. Of the 234 Republicans, 207 are white men, eight are Hispanic, two are native Americans and 19 are women. There are no black House Republicans.

After last year's elections, Pelosi boasted about the numbers, saying it "reflects the great diversity and strength of our nation." Within the caucus she leads, the numbers add up to a force that can't be ignored.

"We have leverage," said Rep. Mike Honda, D-Calif., a member of the Asian Pacific American Caucus and the grandson of Japanese immigrants who spent the first few years of his life at a Japanese-American internment camp in Colorado during World War II.

The Democrats have tried unsuccessfully to change or scuttle the individual bills from the House Judiciary Committee, none including a path to citizenship and several they've described as mean-spirited.

One provides for a crackdown on immigrants living in the United States illegally. Another sets up a temporary program for farm workers to come to the United States, but without the opportunity for citizenship that the Senate-passed measure includes.

A third, which drew several Democratic votes, requires establishing a mandatory program within two years for companies to verify the legal status of their workers. The Senate bill sets a four-year phase-in, although supporters of the legislation have also signaled they are agreeable to tighter requirements. A fourth House bill increases the number of visas for highly-skilled workers, also a feature of the Senate bill.

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