U.S. Rep. Heath Shuler’s bill to fortify U.S. borders and mandate that employers verify that their workers are in the U.S. legally has suddenly caught fire.
Shuler introduced the bill in November. But Republicans have recently taken notice and now want to force a vote on the immigration enforcement measure, hoping to make some political hay out of the issue.
Here’s what the Associated Press reports:
Republican leaders hope that by pushing the bill — endorsed by 48 centrist Democrats and 94 Republicans — they can drive Democrats into a politically painful choice: Backing a tough immigration measure that could alienate their base, including Hispanic voters, or being painted as soft on border security in conservative-leaning districts.
Leaders are expected later this week to use a parliamentary tactic that would eventually force a vote on the measure if 218 lawmakers — a majority of the House — demand it. Republicans are pressuring Democratic backers of the measure — including several first-termers and dozens from swing districts, all facing tough re-election fights — to defy their leaders and sign the petition.
The move would be a rebuke to Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., who opposes the Shuler bill unless it’s paired with measures to allow undocumented workers a chance at legal status and allow legal immigrants to bring more family members to the United States. Democratic leaders have been working behind the scenes to craft an alternative that could dissuade their more conservative members who back Shuler’s bill from joining the GOP effort to press forward on it.
They are considering pairing a widely popular measure by Rep. Bart Stupak, D-Mich., to allow more seasonal workers to come to the United States under so-called H-2B visas with proposals aimed at speeding the process of granting immigrants’ spouses and minor children visas to join their parents in the U.S., among others. Also under discussion is a bill that would allow nonresident immigrants serving in the military to become citizens.
It’s not clear whether Republicans can gather enough support for a vote on the bipartisan enforcement bill, which couldn’t take place until April at the earliest. GOP leaders relish the idea of calling attention to Democrats’ rifts on the issue in advance of Congress’ 14-day Easter recess starting next week. They plan to blast Democrats who have endorsed the legislation but not signed onto the effort to force a vote on it.
Shuler’s office today announced that he would appear live on CNN’s Lou Dobbs Tonight program to talk about his bill. Dobbs has been outspoken about his desire for tougher U.S. immigration policies.
— Jason Sandford, multimedia editor