Immigration Reform 2013: Why is the House Trying Its Damndest to Kill It?

ByDaffany Chan

The bipartisan group of senators nicknamed the "Gang of Eight" recently unveiled a plan for immigration reform, a lengthy bill that contains 800 pages dealing with issues such as border security and employment verification. 

If passed, the "Gang of Eight's" proposal will be the nation's most comprehensive immigration reform legislation reform that the nation urgently needs. But the bill faces overwhelming obstacles, and is already under intense scrutiny, before Congress even considers the possibility of its passage. 

The main objectors to the bill are unhappy House Republican lawmakers, who intend to prolong examination of the lengthy bill in order to threaten the Senate's efforts: "The House Judiciary Committee intends to examine immigration reform in a step-by-step approach," House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte said. 

According to the Huffington Post, the House plans to analyze each bill through a piecemeal approach rather than a comprehensive outlook, which will endanger its passage. This process essentially makes passage an all-or-nothing ordeal, with Senator John McCain referencing the past DREAM Act failure. The proposal, which was also analyzed through a piecemeal approach, ultimately failed to pass the Senate in particular because it did not feature border security measures.

The clash between the House and Senate in their approach to legislation will hinder any chance of comprehensive reform. While the "Gang of Eight" has been actively rallying senators from both parties in order to gain 70 votes in the Senate, which McCain called "very doable," the House has been idle on the issue of immigration. According to the New York Times, the bipartisan House group focusing on immigration still has no proposal after four years of infrequent meetings. 

The lack of urgency from the House stems from the fact that for many House lawmakers, immigration does not concern their constituents. Though South Carolina Representative Trey Gowdy chairs the House immigration policy subcommittee, he notes that his district is less than 2% Hispanic. Thus, House lawmakers from districts with small minority populations are less inclined to push for policy fixes that their constituents don't necessarily want or care for.

By holding up the Senate bill, the House hopes to instead introduce their own bill by the end of May. House Democrats are pushing for the introduction of a proposal by their own branches' subcommittee, critiquing the Senate's bill by offering that the House will offer "a good compromise on a total fix to our immigration system not a partial fix, not a piecemeal fix, but a total fix," California Representative Xavier Becerra said.

The obstacles to the passage of immigration reform are enormous not only because of disagreements over detailed portions of the lengthy bill, but because of the inherent clash between members of different groups: Whether it's between Democrats and Republicans or between the House and the Senate, each lawmaker represents extraordinarily different interests. Thus, passage of the "Gang of Eight's" reform will undoubtedly be difficult if not nearly impossible, and unfortunately it will be the 11 million undocumented immigrants that will be hurt from the resulting political gridlock.