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February 13, 2016

Boehner Releases Immigration Principles (Updated)

Updated 6:13 p.m. | CAMBRIDGE, Md. – Speaker John A. Boehner of Ohio released his long-awaited immigration overhaul principles Thursday afternoon, for the first time laying out a broad GOP-backed pathway to legalized status for undocumented immigrants.

Boehner and other top Republicans have been talking about it for months, but the document lays out a draft for how Republicans want to take on the contentious issue, which is splitting their party at their annual retreat here. The party will discuss and potentially amend the document, and it is possible that it will not be accepted at all.

The principles stress interior and border enforcement must be enacted before mechanisms to legalization can begin and notes that Republicans do not favor a “special pathway” to citizenship for anyone who illegally traversed the border into the United States. However, it does present options for those roughly 11 million immigrants living in the country.

“These persons could live legally and without fear in the U.S., but only if they were willing to admit their culpability, pass rigorous background checks, pay significant fines and back taxes, develop proficiency in English and American civics, and be able to support themselves and their families (without access to public benefits),” the document states. “Criminal aliens, gang members, and sex offenders and those who do not meet the above requirements will not be eligible for this program.”

The plan also includes measures that would address visas, employment verification, changes to the current legal immigration system and provide “an opportunity for legal residence and citizenship for those who were brought to this country as children through no fault of their own.”

A GOP aide contrasted this piece-by-piece style with the Senate’s immigration bill, which was more than 1,200 pages long, and emphasized that leaders intend to make sure members and constituents understand each step of the immigration process before moving on to the next principle.

Boehner himself made the pitch to his conference to act, according to a source in the room.

“It’s important to act on immigration reform because we’re focused on jobs and economic growth, and this about jobs and growth,” he told his flock. “Reform is also about our national security. The safety and security of our nation depends on our ability to secure our border, enforce our laws, improve channels for legal entry to the country, and identify who is here illegally.”

Bohner reiterated his opposition to the Senate bill and insisted the principles would not be compromised.

“These standards are as far as we are willing to go,” he said. “Nancy Pelosi said yesterday that for her caucus, it is a special path to citizenship or nothing. If Democrats insist on that, then we are not going to get anywhere this year.”

Republicans were vigorously debating the principles, with the fate of a rewrite hanging in the balance.

Boehner has been preaching action for months, and in addressing reporters Thursday morning, he reiterated his desire to push forward incremental bills that would restructure the nation’s immigration system.

“Day after the 2012 election, I said it’s time for Congress and the president to deal with this very important issue,” Boehner said at a morning news conference. “I think it’s time to deal with it.”

At an afternoon gathering here at a private conference in a sprawling Hyatt Inn resort overlooking a snowy Chesapeake Bay, members waded into the issue. Rep. Jeff Denham, who will help lead a session later focused solely on immigration, spoke in favor of the acting this year, but others rebutted him, according to a source in the room.

Although Boehner and House Budget Committee Chairman Paul D. Ryan, R-Wis., made the case for reform, other influential members spoke out against acting this year, said Rep. John Fleming, R-La.

Financial Services Chairman Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas, Science Chairman Lamar Smith, R-Texas, and Budget Vice Chairman Tom Price, R-Ga., who are influential in conservative circles, all said reform should not move forward this year, Fleming said.

“My sense is that the consensus here is that we should not move forward and that leaders will abide by that,” Fleming said. “On a political basis, this is a suicide mission for Republicans. Why would we want to change the topic for a very toxic problem Democrats have with Obamacare?”

Indeed, political considerations weigh heavy on members, many of whom worry that a vote on the issue would draw a primary challenge. States hold their primaries throughout the year, so it will be impossible for leadership to wait out every potential challenge — Texas primaries, for instance, are held in early March, while in Florida, party voters do not decide until August.

National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Greg Walden tried to allay those concerns, telling reporters that an overhaul bill is important to take up but would not be on the calendar anytime soon.

“My hunch is that it doesn’t come up tomorrow. It’s probably months out,” he said. “The point is that most of the primaries will have faded by then anyway. By the time you get to June, most of them are behind you.”

Republicans agree broadly on some aspects of the changes, for instance adding more border security measures and, to a lesser extent, allowing agricultural workers to stay in the country legally while also traveling home. But the point of contention is whether or how to provide legal status for the millions of immigrants.

For members in solid-red districts, it will be hard to sell any such vote as anything less than amnesty, an abhorrence to conservatives and influential outside groups.

Rep. Jason Smith, a junior member of the Judiciary Committee, where the policy will have to originate, said constituents in his conservative Missouri district see no distinction between giving legalized status to immigrants and giving them citizenship outright.

“I think they’re the same thing,” he said. “I have great concerns about the legalization aspect.”

After listening to his colleagues weigh in, Rep. Joe L. Barton, R-Texas, predicted the issue will be insurmountable, not simply because of divisions in the party but because it will be impossible to find policy that both Republicans and Democrats will support.

“I think we’re probably going to wait until next year,” he said. “I’m not afraid to engage in a constructive dialogue on it, and if there really is a bipartisan deal that works, take a look at it. But I wouldn’t put a lot of political chips on it this year.”

Adding to that, Republicans cite a mistrust of the Obama administration to carry out the border enforcement, a particular concern in the wake of the president’s State of the Union promise to bypass Congress whenever possible.

“Whatever we pass, there’s no real trust that the president’s going to enforce those laws equally. That’s been a big problem on a lot of fronts, but especially on immigration,” said Rep. Steve Scalise of Louisiana, chairman of the conservative Republican Study Committee.

Rep. Tom Cole, a Boehner ally, said leadership still has a big decision to make, one that will determine whether they can indeed wrangle a majority of the conference behind an immigration rewrite. He said 218 Republicans in favor of the overhaul is likely impossible, but said leaders could get enough from both parties to plow ahead if they work for it.

“The leadership will have to make a decision as to what they want to do, knowing it’s a contentious issue,” he said. “If they come to agreement … then as long as they’re willing to sort of manage the conference, then I think we can probably get to a majority of the majority.”

Here are the full GOP principles:

Standards for Immigration Reform

Our nation’s immigration system is broken and our laws are not being enforced. Washington’s failure to fix them is hurting our economy and jeopardizing our national security. The overriding purpose of our immigration system is to promote and further America’s national interests and that is not the case today. The serious problems in our immigration system must be solved, and we are committed to working in a bipartisan manner to solve them. But they cannot be solved with a single, massive piece of legislation that few have read and even fewer understand, and therefore, we will not go to a conference with the Senate’s immigration bill. The problems in our immigration system must be solved through a step-by-step, common-sense approach that starts with securing our country’s borders, enforcing our laws, and implementing robust enforcement measures. These are the principals guiding us in that effort.

Border Security and Interior Enforcement Must Come First

It is the fundamental duty of any government to secure its borders, and the United States is failing in this mission. We must secure our borders now and verify that they are secure. In addition, we must ensure now that when immigration reform is enacted, there will be a zero tolerance policy for those who cross the border illegally or overstay their visas in the future. Faced with a consistent pattern of administrations of both parties only selectively enforcing our nation’s immigration laws, we must enact reform that ensures that a President cannot unilaterally stop immigration enforcement.

Implement Entry-Exit Visa Tracking System

A fully functioning Entry-Exit system has been mandated by eight separate statutes over the last 17 years. At least three of these laws call for this system to be biometric, using technology to verify identity and prevent fraud. We must implement this system so we can identify and track down visitors who abuse our laws.

Employment Verification and Workplace Enforcement

In the 21st century it is unacceptable that the majority of employees have their work eligibility verified through a paper based system wrought with fraud. It is past time for this country to fully implement a workable electronic employment verification system.

Reforms to the Legal Immigration System

For far too long, the United States has emphasized extended family members and pure luck over employment-based immigration. This is inconsistent with nearly every other developed country. Every year thousands of foreign nationals pursue degrees at America’s colleges and universities, particularly in high skilled fields. Many of them want to use their expertise in U.S. industries that will spur economic growth and create jobs for Americans. When visas aren’t available, we end up exporting this labor and ingenuity to other countries. Visa and green card allocations need to reflect the needs of employers and the desire for these exceptional individuals to help grow our economy.

The goal of any temporary worker program should be to address the economic needs of the country and to strengthen our national security by allowing for realistic, enforceable, usable, legal paths for entry into the United States. Of particular concern are the needs of the agricultural industry, among others. It is imperative that these temporary workers are able to meet the economic needs of the country and do not displace or disadvantage American workers.


One of the great founding principles of our country was that children would not be punished for the mistakes of their parents. It is time to provide an opportunity for legal residence and citizenship for those who were brought to this country as children through no fault of their own, those who know no other place as home. For those who meet certain eligibility standards, and serve honorably in our military or attain a college degree, we will do just that.

Individuals Living Outside the Rule of Law

Our national and economic security depend on requiring people who are living and working here illegally to come forward and get right with the law. There will be no special path to citizenship for individuals who broke our nation’s immigration laws – that would be unfair to those immigrants who have played by the rules and harmful to promoting the rule of law. Rather, these persons could live legally and without fear in the U.S., but only if they were willing to admit their culpability, pass rigorous background checks, pay significant fines and back taxes, develop proficiency in English and American civics, and be able to support themselves and their families (without access to public benefits). Criminal aliens, gang members, and sex offenders and those who do not meet the above requirements will not be eligible for this program. Finally, none of this can happen before specific enforcement triggers have been implemented to fulfill our promise to the American people that from here on, our immigration laws will indeed be enforced.

  • John Johnson

    Here comes the lies. No amnasty what soever. Build the fence send them packing. A step by step aproch is the steps back where they came from

    • Beverly

      Sell the back to where they came from, make the other county pay our bills for a change…instead of getting free money from US AID

  • cnourse57

    Boehner’s plan sounds pretty good to me. I’m glad he refuses to go to conference with the Senate on their “comprehensive” reform package. It sounds like Boehner’s plan is that step one will be to make sure the borders are secured. I hope he means that in particular, the Southern border has a very strong fence or even double fence as appropriate. I think it is important that the Congress send inspectors to verify that the fence has been built and is strong at every point from the Gulf of Mexico to the Pacific Ocean. I do not think it is appropriate to accept the President’s word that the border is secure. We have proof that the current President tells lies (If you like your health care plan you can keep your plan; if you like your doctor you can keep your doctor.). Some future President might also be a chronic liar but fool enough voters to be elected.

    • No Thanks

      It’s an amnesty — and nothing in their little platform requires that ANYTHING be in place before aliens start acquiring legal status. This is Obama’s wet dream as it will create 30 million democrat voters within a few years.

      • Strawberry Garcia

        Nowhere did it say they would be given US citizenship it said they will be put in the back of the line after legal immigrants. In effect if they meet the criteria stated above they will be given green cards not US citizenship.

  • Harry_the_Horrible

    That is nice, but somehow it always comes out of the final bill or is not enforced. We’ve been seeing a lot of selective law enforcement these days.

    Got a better idea. Secure the border and put some effort into enforcing existing laws. Then we can talk about the rest.


    Boy, you’d think with all the years of experience the Republicans have in Congress, you’d think they would have a moment of clarity with what they are doing and what is coming with “Immigration reform”……..This is like a bunch of chickens finding a wicker basket full of baby foxes at the door to their henhouse on a rainy night……Oh, we feel so sorry for those poor wet babies, let’s take them in and feed them and raise them…….LOL…..How stupid are you people, anyway? Let ’em be legal and they will ALL vote Democrat, for MORE “Wealth Distribution”…..DUH……Who could have seen that coming? The RNC will be consigned to the broom closet for the next 100 years…….That’s what you’re looking at Fellas………

  • jack_foobar

    How about go F yourselves. Secure the Border. Enforce the laws.

    The fact is Congress has NO POWER over the Executive Branch enforcing Immigration law. Nothing. Nada. Zip. You’re all full of sht.

    No matter what law you pass, it won’t do a damn thing about the foreign born Islamo-communist in the White House. Border Patrol is begging for help, and all you do is watch as Obama arms drug cartels and gets them killed.

    • Steve Salvi

      Have you seen the Victims of Illegal Aliens Memorial? Americans who have been killed by Illegal Aliens because the federal govt has been corrupted by politicians!

  • Guest

    OK, this was all done before in the 1986 Shamnesty Promising Border Security but NEVER HAPPENED.
    Los Angeles was the 1st City to VANISH into Mexifornia.
    This will happen again, only on the rest of America.
    U will SEE what others saw in 1986 Los Angeles, only in YOUR AREA.
    Don’t believe me, fine. Just watch.
    These are the same peoples that turned Lynwood, Compton & Watts, Latino

  • Okeydoker

    No amnesty ever. Do we really need 11 to 30,000,000 more Mexican peasants? The Democrats do.

    • Beverly

      True, they want their lawns mowed and tables bussed, cheap. They also want people coming forward to pay a bundle in taxes…they let illegals run drug trade run, then bust a big cash hoard…$$$$ This is about money, the government does not care that we have laws…they write the laws, then refuse to enforce the laws we have

      • Herb Smith

        No, it’s the GOP that’s the party of cheap labor on almost every issue (minimum wage, unions, visas, etc.) The GOP is divided because so many of their business allies benefit greatly by exploiting cheap undocumented workers.

  • theSavage

    We all know why. just because the GOP thinks it will help them win in 2014/16, the same reason they kept the country from jobs thinking it would help them win the presidency in 2012.
    Don’t bother GOP we know why the House GOP leaders embrace immigration fix that includes legal status for undocumented and it wont work, the GOP are users and abusers, IN FACT it will make even more people NOT want to vote for you all. We will get the immigration fix in 2014 AFTER you lose and it will be a better WIN for everybody. Just what group have you Republicans not pis*ed off, OH that’s right the wealthy WELL good luck with that. GOP motto, if you can’t win then Lie and they do that a lot….

    • Richard Tebaldi

      To Savage.
      what are you smoking?

  • Judy P65

    Let’s treat them the same way Mexico would treat us if we broke their laws. Send them home at once.

  • DrGeneNelson

    To understand where these so-called GOP principles will lead, I suggest reviewing what Obama immigration advisor (and former SEIU leader) Eliseo Medina said a few years back. Immigration amnesty will lead to a “permanent Democrat party majority.” I hope that the House Republicans rebuke and reject this amnesty proposal.

    • Terral BlackStar

      The funny reality is that illegal alien foreign nationals drive down the wages of these same Latino ‘legal’ immigrants, as unscrupulous US employers hire from the illegal alien labor pool.

    • Madd Scientist

      Do not even bring immigration for any debate. Just let it die. Why? There is no need for REFORM.All that needs to be done is to ENFORCE the existing laws. Why the dems want is because, theyw ant apermanent majority of the rling class. The RINOS are being scared to death of losing votes. The fact is even if the RINOS agree for AMNESTY, the LAtino votes will always be for the DemocRATs. The RINOs must be totally deaf and mutwe not to understand this. Any for m of AMNESTY is apolitical suicide for the RINOS. End of discussion.Thank you

  • Donato

    The only way to secure the border is to bring the military home from Muslim land and station them from Boca Chica, Tx (on the Gulf below Brownsville, Tx) to Chula Vista, Ca(at the Pacific Ocean west of San Deigo). They could hold for arrest by the BP or drug people. Immediately pitch them back over the Mex border regardless of what country they came from.

    • Terral BlackStar

      About half of all illegal alien foreign nationals running around loose in the USA have overstayed their visas. The idea of securing the border is nonsense, when nobody is trying to enforce our immigration and employment laws AT THE WORKPLACE. The USA has about 25 guest worker programs bringing in 1.5 million foreign nationals each year amid high unemployment creating more Worker Displacement of US workers forced to compete with illegal aliens willing to work for less than half the price. That is why your house values are likely to continue going south, as more and more illegal aliens continue moving north driving wages down for American workers.

      • Chillycat2

        If half as you state are from insecure borders it’s not nonsense …just saying

  • Paul Wade

    I agree, children are brought by with no fault of their own. The fault of them being here is because their parents brought them here as a family of illegal aliens.

    That Mr. Bummer, is not acceptable by we American citizens. We expect immigrants to come here legally, not as illegal aliens, and our expections the people in Congress we elected to represent us to actually honor that oath they took to get that job is for real.

  • HongryHawg

    He’s decided to take his payout and deal with the backwash by either officially “retiring” or keeping his head down and letting come what may. Just another traitor that term-limits could have stopped.

  • ¿ɟʇʍ

    Blah blah…they said the same thing in the 80s about enforcing the borders if only they could give amnesty first. The border promise evaporated like a fart in the wind.
    Now we are stuck with the dregs of Mexico who abuse our system and taxpayer money with nothing in return.
    I say deport them or shoot them. I really don’t care at this point

  • LeavingMyRepublicanParty

    Tom Cole hasn’t done his job, so he wants to sneak past amnesty.

    The Lie of the Year is them saying this isn’t amnesty. Republican voters will vote third party.

  • Richard Tebaldi

    The Constitution is clear. We demand our Government protect our borders. YOU cannot refuse us. It is un-American to not do this. Are you anti-American, Mr. President? Enforce our laws or step down.

    • bloodyspartan

      You all seem to forget what the Declaration declares,.

      When they don’t give a rats butt, we are responsoble to remove them by FORCE if necessary.

      If we do not have the cojones, they will not care one bit.

      WHY do you think they exempt themselves from all LAWS?

      Time to do our DUTY!

    • Terral BlackStar

      Most Americans seem completely unaware that about half of all illegal alien foreign nationals in the USA today came here legally through guest worker/student visas. Standing at the border with a gaze into Mexico is ridiculous, when millions and millions of illegal aliens are working under false documentation from sea to shining sea. Enforce our laws at the workplace and illegal aliens have no incentive to cross our borders in the middle of the night in the first place.

      • Richard Tebaldi

        You, Terrall Blackstar, don’t know what you’re talking about because you’re not taking it back far enough. In the 1900’s no immigrant would think of coming to America illegally! Most went through Ellis Island. You had to have someone sponsor you, and you had to have a reason you could contribute. You also were to disavow allegiance to your former Country, and accept that you would commit complete allegiance to the U.S. You took an oath to do this. This Country stood up for the poor, the tread upon, the poor souls who were treated worse than humanly believable. They willingly gave their allegiances to America and found their place and contributed to our success. Our newest legislators don’t have the intestinal fortitude to follow our Constitution. It will be your and our downfall. Good luck, OUT!

  • Tank_Commander

    Out of all those principles, Mr. Speaker, where are the penalties for those who hire illegals? Nope, not even a cricket sounds off at that from the GOP. Liars, every one of them.

  • Jon McCasper

    In July, 2010 an illegal alien murdered 19-year-old college freshman Vanessa Pham in Fairfax, Virginia.

  • Patriot41

    One cannot truthfully deny, that the principles set fourth here are realistic and that is a very good place to start with this immigration debate. If in fact, both political parties would accept these principles and enforce them as well, there would be a very good chance that it would be a major step forward, in dealing with the illegal immigration problems in this nation. Quite frankly, I have yet to see a better solution.

    I agree wholeheartedly, that now is not the time to address this problem politically, because there is absolutely no effort on the part of this current administration and the majority party in the Senate, to properly deal with our illegal immigration problems. Up to this point, the majority party and it’s leaders, have not only ignored our immigration laws, but have discouraged enforcing them to the point, that ICE and border security personnel have vigorously protested their policies. Until there is a change in the political attitude on the Hill and at the White House, the good will and faith for adopting these principles, would be totally missing from the equation.

    GOP leadership needs to float these recommendations throughout the party organization and the nation, and allow time for feedback from the citizens. At the same time, it needs to present these recommended changes to the many different immigrant organizations and give them an opportunity to respond. Then and only then, will they know how well such changes would be received and can act accordingly, to the will of the people. To proceed to conference without doing so, would only spell political disaster for the GOP.

    The security of our nation, must always be first and foremost in any decision made by our government. After all, we have been told this time and again, when being forced into endless, unnecessary wars abroad. One would think the same mindset would be applied to securing our borders, here at home.

  • James Knauer

    At this late date, nothing the House passes will make a dent in the built-in 245 electoral vote Democratic advantage. Neither Romney nor McCain made so much as a dent in that wall. For conservatives to succeed on immigration means going back 20 years and having another crack at the debate because they have lost it in the present. Those votes are not coming.

  • Chuck

    What a suicidal, loser issue. Why, oh why do Republicans insist on shooting themselves with this issue, time and time again?!!?

  • John C

    Boehner needs to go, he is in the wrong party. Amnesty would be a travesty and do irreparable damage to the country, it didn’t work in 1986, except to help out the dems bring in new voters, it won’t help the country now. Shut the borders down, send all criminal aliens, who broke into this country, back to where they came from with NO CHANCE EVER to be an American citizen.

  • nightwisp

    Send them back where they came from. One way ticket.

    Our people need jobs. Agriculture is drying up with the water. They are not picking peas anymore.

  • BeResponsible2

    The start of “Elysium”? Sure , I know it was a supposedly fictional futuristic movie. But, I hate it when fictional “art” would eventually lead to real “life”. Think about it…

  • lowCal90

    In 2013, about 59 percent of captured illegal aliens were convicted criminals.

  • 7Seeker

    GOP is scared to death of citizenship. They’ve alienated enough immigrants to sink their ship for the next decade or two.

  • turfbarn80

    So, these people could live here legally if they jump through some hoops, or else WHAT? Are we to believe the government will really deport the non compliant illegals after insisting for years its unrealistic? Fat chance.

  • BCP

    Well if there is NO pathway for citizenship, admitting their illegal acts and a fine of say the current Coyote rate of $5000 plus back taxes and secure borders first. I might support it.

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