Immigration Reform 2013: Will the House Kill the Bill?

Sometime in the very near future, hopefully this next month, a bipartisan group of four Democrats and four Republican representatives will introduce the House version of comprehensive immigration reform. That effort has been placed in jeopardy of being sabotaged by the Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.).

Rather than taking a comprehensive approach, Goodlatte and other GOP members of the House prefer to take a slower approach. They believe immigration reform should be tackled one symptom at a time. Based on this belief, Goodlatte plans to begin this process by introducing two bills, one addressing a temporary agricultural guest worker program and the other the use of E-Verify system to ensure workers are legally allowed to work in this country. Given that any immigration reform legislation would have to go through the Judiciary Committee, Goodlatte is definitely in the spoiler position.

How this issue proceeds is now up to Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Ohio). According to House rules, it is his responsibility to refer bills to committee. As part of this process, the speaker must decide if he will use what is known as the Hassert Rule to determine which method to support. Circumventing the Hassert Rule and advancing a bill that does not have support of the majority of the majority party members can be politically damaging and have the unintended consequences of preventing any bill from advancing. There has also been talk that the speaker will bypass the committee process and bring proposed legislation directly to the floor of the House.

If the House decides to move forward using a piecemeal approach, immigration reform will, for all intent and purpose, be dead. Key Senators from the Gang of Eight as well as Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) have stated they will not support a piecemeal approach.

Details of the House bipartisan plan have not been released. Leaks have been virtually non-existent. What has been revealed is that the plan will be tougher than the Senate proposal. But tougher would not most likely prevent comprehensive immigration reform from reaching a conference committee.

The fate of immigration reform rests with House Republicans. The Congress and the country await the speaker's decision.