With ‘an agreement in principle,’ House lawmakers will begin drafting legislation to be introduced in early June. But hurdles remain.
By James Rowley and Roxana Tiron
May 17 (Bloomberg) -- A bipartisan group of U.S. House members has reached a tentative agreement on a comprehensive revision of the U.S. immigration system, according to three lawmakers, as a Senate committee proceeds with its own plan.
"We have an agreement in principle," Texas Republican John Carter said as House members left a negotiating session yesterday in Washington, while withholding details. Lawmakers will begin drafting legislation to be introduced in early June.
The House measure will differ "in a lot of areas" from the Senate’s proposal, Florida Republican Representative Mario Diaz-Balart told reporters. He said the deal was the first step in "a very difficult process." Kentucky Democrat John Yarmuth also told reporters there was a tentative agreement.
The House proposal, like the Senate’s, offers a path to citizenship for many of 11 million undocumented immigrants already living in the U.S., according to a House aide not authorized to discuss the deal publicly. While none would be barred from seeking that path, they would have to wait 10 years to become legal residents, making them eligible for citizenship after another five years. The bipartisan proposal in the Senate envisions a path to citizenship taking at least 13 years.
Resolution of this issue poses the potential key to an agreement between the Democratic-controlled Senate and Republican-run House on President Barack Obama’s push for the most significant revision of U.S. immigration policy in a generation.
Representative Xavier Becerra, a California Democrat, said in a May 8 interview that his party would insist on ultimate citizenship eligibility for the undocumented. "I don’t think anyone wants to go back to when you have second-class status, where you have a permanent underclass," he said.
The Senate Judiciary Committee will continue working on amendments to its bipartisan immigration legislation next week. Word of an agreement among the House negotiators could lend momentum to the effort. Getting an immigration measure through Congress long been considered most difficult to achieve in the Republican-run House.
At an April 29 immigration forum in San Antonio, Texas, Carter said he was crafting a provision requiring people who entered the U.S. illegally to complete a procedure to meet demands that undocumented immigrants not receive "amnesty."
The last congressional bid to pass comprehensive immigration legislation stalled in 2007. Republicans are trying to reconnect with Hispanics after Obama won 71 percent of the constituency’s votes in his re-election in November.