WASHINGTON, D.C. — Immigration was not on the June legislative agenda released by Majority Leader Eric Cantor. It was only fleetingly discussed at a closed-door conference meeting this morning. And many lawmakers are being kept in the dark about an effort led by three House Republicans to gather support to bring the issue to the floor in coming weeks.
But in quiet conversations, the group – comprising Reps. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL) and Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-SC) – is asking House Republicans one question: “do you want to do immigration reform now, later, or never?”
“It’s nothing in detail,” said a GOP lawmaker who was approached by the group. But even the informal efforts to gauge support – which aides adamantly said House GOP leadership did not participate in – is proving incendiary on a hot-button issue while tens of thousands of children stream across the southern border.
“Clearly, border security, and getting a handle on the current problems that exist are paramount before we move forward on any other kind of immigration reform,” said Rep. Ann Wagner (R-MO), a Missouri freshman who participated in discussions on the issue held in Cantor’s office last year.
Ryan, asked to comment about his involvement, said “my position has always been clear, I’m against amnesty. I’ll leave it at that. I don’t have any comments.”
Immigration reform was almost entirely absent from a closed-door conference meeting early Tuesday, with the exception of a momentary reference by Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX), who wondered why the GOP would be focused on the issue at all right now, according to a person who was in the meeting.
But exiting the session, several Republicans cited the current border crisis to argue against action.
Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX), whose home state is seeing the vast majority of children crossing the border, blamed the Obama administration.
Obama’s lax enforcement of the law is “an open invitation to young people to enter the country illegally,” Smith, a former chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, told Breitbart Tuesday.
“This administration has a record of ignoring laws, undermining laws, and trying to make laws with executive orders,” The Texas Republican said. “So I think most members have lost confidence in this administration’s willingness to enforce different kinds of laws and especially immigration laws.”
Alabama Republican Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL) told Breitbart that the surge in unaccompanied minors crossing the border was an expected outcome of the Obama administration’s approach to immigration.
“It should surprise nobody that when you have a president that tells the world that we are not going to enforce our borders on the one hand, on the other hand we’re going to give you all sorts of freebies at taxpayer expense and suddenly we have more foreigners who want to leave their country and come into our country unlawfully. And that is the problem with this give-away attitude that the White House has,” Brooks said.
Also Tuesday, Louisiana Republican Rep. John Fleming (R-LA) added that there is no way, given Obama’s lawlessness that the House can “rationally” bring up immigration reform as current enforcement is so out of control.
“I think that in as much as you have a President who continues to sully the discussion with outrageous things he is doing, such as encouraging kids to come across the border and creating a humanitarian disaster, down in Arizona, those places,” he said. “There is no way we can rationally deal with reform when we have a president who is so out of control and lawless when it come to enforcing the laws of our nation and our sovereign borders.”
At a luncheon event sponsored by the Heritage Foundation Tuesday, several other members brought up the issue as well.
“I believe it is a direct result of Obama’s policy with the Dreamers and that a lot of people in the Western hemisphere believe that is their ticket to amnesty,” Arizona Republican Rep. Matt Salmon (R-AZ) said there.
“This latest iteration with unaccompanied minors so badly hurts his push. There are some that have speculated he is trying to do this to try to one up everybody and force our hand on this immigration reform but in my mind he is only hurting his cause,” he said explaining the effect has been to drive members the exact opposite direction.
Idaho Republican Rep. Raúl Labrador, who has repeatedly expressed a desire to achieve immigration reform, added that there will not be a lot of motivation for immigration reform unless the flood of illegal immigration is stopped.
“It’s really quite unfortunate that now we have seen what the effects of the Obama administration push on immigration has done to our nation. I am for immigration reform. I think it’s the right thing to do. But immigration reform does not mean what some people think it means,” Labrador said, arguing that amnesty for illegal immigrants results in more illegal immigration and that the goal should be about fixing the system, allowing legal immigration not illegal immigration.
“If we can stop and we can stop the inflow of illegal immigration then there will be more of an incentive for Congress to act on immigration reform,” the Idaho Republican added.