CAMBRIDGE, Md. — A Republican blueprint for
The much-anticipated blueprint, while short on specifics, would offer legal status to immigrants as long as they admitted to wrongdoing, paid fines and taxes, submitted to a criminal background check and demonstrated a mastery of English and civics.
Those steps would come only after measures were taken to secure borders, according to the plan.
Immigrants brought to the country illegally as children — so-called Dreamers — would be allowed to apply for legal residence and citizenship, the document says.
The one-page draft, the culmination of weeks of internal party debate, says there should be a zero-tolerance policy for immigration law violators once reform is enacted and calls for stripping the presidential power to use discretion when deciding whom to deport.
The plan's lack of a special pathway to citizenship for most of the 11 million drew fire from some Democrats, unions and Latino organizations.
Richard Trumka, president of the
The issue has deeply divided the party, with many conservatives opposed to pursuing any reform. Others say the GOP must tackle the issue to reach out to Latino voters, who have increasingly turned to the Democratic Party.
"It's important to act on immigration reform because we're focused on jobs and economic growth, and this about jobs and growth," he said, according to a source in the room for the presentation.
"Republicans must end the lawlessness — not surrender to it — and they must defend the legitimate interests of millions of struggling American workers," Sessions wrote.
Republicans hope to narrow their internal differences and introduce legislation this year. Boehner said the House would pursue a "step by step" approach to reform, rather than adopt the comprehensive legislation passed by the Senate last year.
But any immigration bills probably wouldn't come up until June, when most of the congressional primaries are over. This would protect Republican incumbents, who are facing challenges from the right, from having to make a tough vote.
If House Republicans pass bills based on the newly released principles, it would put Democrats in a position of having to decide whether to reject the more scaled-down approach or accept it as preferable to no action at all.
Boehner, speaking to the Republicans on Thursday, said the new standards "are as far as we are willing to go."
Democrats, including President
In a statement Thursday, Pelosi said, "As Republicans unveil more specifics of their legislation, we hope we can find common ground with our Democratic principles — to secure our borders, protect our workers, unite our families and provide an earned pathway to citizenship."
Alfonso Aguilar, executive director of the Latino Partnership for Conservative Principles, said the GOP's draft "doesn't close the door to citizenship. It only says that if those who legalize want to become citizens, they need to follow the process established by current law.
"If Democrats decide to kill the GOP House plan because it doesn't provide a special path to citizenship," he said, "it will show that they care more about politics than resolving the issue and bringing the undocumented out of the shadows."