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Senate's Immigration Reform Bill Is Declared Dead At One Year Old


A year-long effort to push a comprehensive immigration reform bill through the House was officially declared dead yesterday. Prospects for the bill were always dicey and the debate became more complicated by the recent wave of unaccompanied children seeking entry into the United States. NPR's Richard Gonzales has more.

RICHARD GONZALES, BYLINE: A key feature of the immigration reform bill was a path to citizenship for many of the 11 million people residing here illegally. It will be a year tomorrow since the Senate approved its version of the overhaul bill. House Republican leaders said they wanted some form of immigration reform, but they were warned off at every step by a small but vocal group of conservative lawmakers. A very frustrated Representative Luis Gutierrez, an Illinois Democrat who spearheaded the reform effort, took to the House floor to say he was giving up. Using a visual cue from the World Cup soccer tournament, Gutierrez raised a card referees use to throw a player out of the game.


REPRESENTATIVE LUIS GUTIERREZ: I gave you the warning three months ago and now I have no other choice. You're done. Leave the field. Too many flagrant offenses and unfair attacks and too little action. You're out. Hit the showers. It's the red card.

GONZALES: But opponents of immigration reform say Gutierrez was merely acknowledging that the Republican House would never agree to a bill that includes a path to citizenship. Then came the televised images of tens of thousands of unaccompanied minors trying to cross the southern border. Immigration advocates hoped those images would revive reform efforts, instead there was a backlash. House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte of Virginia laid the blame on the Obama administration.


BOB GOODLATTE: It was easy to predict that people in South and Central America as well as in Mexico, would recognize a veiled invitation from the administration to send their children and families to the United States with little chance of deportation.

GONZALES: Goodlatte and other Republicans say the president created this crisis when two years ago he allowed thousands of immigrant children brought to this country illegally to stay with protections against deportation. But those immigrant kids were raised in this country and immigration reform advocates say their situation has nothing to do with the current border crisis.

Frank Sharry is executive director of America's Voice, an immigration advocacy group. He says the administration should still do something about those undocumented immigrants who are here...


FRANK SHARRY: Who are settled, are working, are contributing, are taking care of their families. Do we really want to rip those families apart? Or do we want to do what we can to say you folks can stay here, be screened, get work permits and await legislation?

GONZALES: Sharry and other immigration advocates hope the president will use his executive powers to expand the protections for people already here. But that would likely set off another political firestorm, says Mark Krikorian, who directs the D.C. based Center for Immigration Studies, which supports immigration limits. Krikorian says in the current climate, the administration is not likely to take executive action before the November elections.


MARK KRIKORIAN: After the election, especially if the Republicans take the Senate, I could see the pressure on the president become irresistible to do some kind of dramatic mass amnesty on his own, and essentially daring the Congress to impeach him.

GONZALES: There is one common agreement in the immigration debate - that with a presidential primary and election coming up, a reform package that includes a path to citizenship is not likely until 2017. Richard Gonzales, NPR News.


You are listening to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Richard Gonzales is NPR's National Desk Correspondent based in San Francisco. Along with covering the daily news of region, Gonzales' reporting has included medical marijuana, gay marriage, drive-by shootings, Jerry Brown, Willie Brown, the U.S. Ninth Circuit, the California State Supreme Court and any other legal, political, or social development occurring in Northern California relevant to the rest of the country.
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