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Greg Siskind on Immigration Law and Policy

Jacoby: Give the House a Chance

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Tamar Jacoby, one of my favorite pundits, has a piece in the LA Times arguing that pessimism associated with the House's rejection of the Senate bill is probably unwarranted:

Pessimists mischaracterize the House strategy, complaining that leadership is gearing up to move "piecemeal" which, because it's not a comprehensive approach, is seen as intransigent and inimical to progress. But this insistence that there's only one way to do things could end up doing more harm than good.

Even if House Republicans were unanimously in favor of reform, in the wake of Obamacare, it's unlikely that they would pass an omnibus, 1,200-page legislative package. Big is bad in Washington these days, especially among Republicans. Lawmakers want to move carefully. They want to break things into bite-sized pieces. And on a controversial issue like immigration reform, they don't want to find unpleasant surprises tucked away in the corner of bills they otherwise support.

But that doesn't mean House Republicans aren't prepared to address the issues in the Senate bill. On the contrary. House committees Judiciary and Homeland Security have already approved targeted measures dealing with border security, E-Verify, interior enforcement, highly skilled immigrants and an agricultural guest-worker program. Another important measure still in the works would create a guest-worker program for nonfarm workers.

House Republicans have been deliberating for months about how to get these measures across the finish line, and many expect the bills to come to the floor separately, passing one by one, each with a slightly different combination of Democrats and Republicans. Then leadership is expected to string the bills together, like beads in a necklace, in a package that can be reconciled with the Senate omnibus. Think of it as a hybrid approach: less than comprehensive, more than piecemeal, but ultimately compatible with the package produced by the Senate.

Tamar also seems to agree with me that the House is still likely to consider a program to legalize the country's 11 million illegally present immigrants albeit using a different approach than the Senate. A "regular" path to citizenship as opposed to a "special" path may be the approach.

So while it's still going to be tough to get to the finish line, there is still plenty of reason to be hopeful the job will get done.

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