By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
On Friday January 31, 2014, U.S. Representative Bradley Byrne (R) from Montrose released a statement on proposed immigration reform legislation supportive of Sen. Jeff Sessions’ position on controversial immigration reform legislation rather than the more moderate position taken by the GOP’s House leadership.
Congressman Byrne said: “Our immigration system isn’t working. Millions of illegal immigrants reside here today, a situation unfair to the American taxpayer and even more so to legal immigrants who have waited in line and obeyed the law. I will oppose any proposed legislation that would grant amnesty to people who are here in violation of our laws. As this debate moves forward, I will work with my conservative colleagues and my home state Senator Jeff Sessions to advocate for strong and accountable border security protections first, and to force President Obama to do his job enforcing our existing laws.”
Similarly Congressman Mo Brooks (R) from Huntsville said on Twitter, “I cannot support legislation that’s going to cost Americans jobs and lower wages.” The second term Congressman representing Alabama’s Fifth Congressional District was on Fox News over the week end stating his opposition to controversial Republican Principles on Immigration Reform released by Republican moderates on Thursday.
Sen. Sessions said of the principles: “Once again, we have the same recycled talking points—crafted, it would appear, with the help of the same consultants and special interests. Each time, the talking points are followed by legislation that fails to match the promises—legislation that, at bottom, ensures only the amnesty and not the enforcement. The leadership talking points look like an attempted repackaging of the tired Gang-of-Eight-style formula that has been proposed, rejected, and re-proposed for years. It is no surprise then that Senator Schumer and former Speaker Pelosi are so encouraged by these developments. But while Democrat leaders and interest groups appear satisfied, this document was not voted upon by the GOP conference and clearly does not represent the consensus of Republican members. Is it not time we pushed aside the stale proposals stitched together in concert with the same lobbyists and asked what is in the best interests of the hardworking American citizen—and the nation?”
There are an estimated 12 million illegal aliens in the United States, most of whom would like legal status and a pathway to American citizenship. President Obama announced earlier in the year that immigration reform would be one of his main legislative priorities in 2013. The
The “Gang of Eight” immigration reform bill passed the U.S. Senate despite opposition from conservatives in the Senate led by Jeff Sessions, but has been bogged down in the Republican controlled U.S. House of Representatives. Republican critics of the bill have been critical of measures in the bill which greatly increase the number of legal immigrants allowed in the country annually and question whether the Obama administration (which has a poor record of enforcing existing immigration law) can be trusted to actually implement heightened border security provisions in the Senate legislation.
On Thursday the House GOP leadership unveiled what they called their ‘standards’ for immigration reform. The House Republicans would allow illegal immigrants already here to be allowed to spend the rest of their lives here but would not provide a pathway to citizenship if they meet a set of stringent requirements and if tough border security triggers are met.
Speaker of the House John Boehner (R), R-Ohio is still refusing to create a conference committee to resolve differences between the House and the much more lenient Senate bill.
The draft principles said “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,” the authors wrote. “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).”
The draft obtained by NBC News continues, “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.”
Republican in the leadership are demanding that even those modest policy changes can’t occur “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.” House Speaker John Boehner has said that the principles are, “As far as we are willing to go” and that negotiations will fall apart if Democrats demand “a special path to citizenship.”
Bradley Byrne represents Alabama’s First Congressional District. He has been in the Congress for less than four weeks after winning a special election to finish the term of Rep. Jo Bonner (R) who resigned in August.