As a group of senators unveil their bipartisan proposal for immigration reform today and President Obama heads west this week to rally support for his own ideas, a separate bipartisan group of lawmakers in the House of Representatives is on the verge of finalizing its own designs for comprehensive immigration reform.
The discussions, which top aides close to the talks discussed on the condition that they not be identified, are described as “Washington’s best-kept secret.”
Last week, House Speaker John Boehner spilled the beans on the secret group, revealing that the lawmakers had been “meeting for three or four years now” and that they are almost ready to present their proposals publicly.
“They basically have an agreement. I’ve not seen the agreement. I don’t know all the pitfalls, but it’s, in my view, the right group of members,” Boehner, R-Ohio, told the Ripon Society last week during remarks that were closed to the press, as first reported by The Hill. “My theory was that if these folks could work this out, it’d be a big step in the right direction.”
Multiple sources say those involved in the talks include Democratic Reps. Xavier Becerra (California), Luis Gutierrez (Illinois), Zoe Lofgren (California), and Republican Reps. Mario Diaz-Balart (Florida), Sam Johnson (Texas) and John Carter (Texas). Spokespersons for each congressional office refused to confirm or deny their representative’s participation in the talks on the record. Additional members have also participated, according to sources intimately involved in the talks.
The House’s not-yet-finalized proposal is expected to address five general areas of immigration reform, according to aides close to the negotiations. Secure the border, implement a permanent E-verify system nationwide, reform the visa system, address the predicament of how to handle immigrants already in the country illegally in a “fair” and “legal manner” while determining how to handle those who have applied for legal immigration and are currently waiting in line, and reform the immigration system for future applicants.
“We don’t want to create an advantage for people who came into the country illegally or overstayed visas while millions of others wait in line,” one insider said. “We have to reform the legal immigration system so you have a system that people will go through rather than go around.”