California Republican Becomes First to Join Comprehensive House Immigration Bill

10099954096_e1b30b56d9_cRep. Jeff Denham (R-CA) announced over the weekend that he will be the first Republican to become a co-sponsor of HR 15, the comprehensive House immigration bill introduced earlier this month. He confirmed the news to Univision anchor Jorge Ramos during an interview that aired on “Al Punto” Sunday, and he said he was going to urge other members of his party to join the bill as co-sponsors as well. “It’s about coming up with a solution that’s bipartisan; Republicans and Democrats coming together.”

The 184 co-sponsors of HR 15 were exclusively Democrats prior to Denham’s announcement, although the bill’s sponsors emphasized the bipartisan policies included in the measure when they introduced it. Rep. Joe Garcia (D-FL), one of the authors of HR 15, told Ramos in a separate interview that Denham showed courage in his decision. Denham’s inclusion further adds to the bipartisan nature of the bill; his ENLIST Act, which would provide a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants who serve in the military, now will be added to HR 15. And it adds to the mounting pressure on House Republican leadership to bring immigration reform legislation to the floor for a vote. In a statement on Friday, Rep. Joe Heck (NV), another Republican, blasted House leaders for failing to act on measures to improve the nation’s immigration policies this year, saying it was another example of a leadership vacuum. “There is a clear, bipartisan consensus among House members that immigration reform is the right thing to do both for people in this country and for our economy,” Heck said in the statement. He added that House committees have passed a handful of bills that could be brought to the floor next week, “but the House Republican leadership may punt the issue until 2014 for political reasons. That’s very disappointing.”

Despite any pessimism about the likelihood of the House voting on immigration reform, Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ), a member of the House Judiciary Committee, said he has been meeting with House Speaker John Boehner about a plan to bring up immigration legislation. “We have meetings one to two times per week and I can tell you that there is a plan to bring immigration to the floor,” Franks told a group of immigration advocates outside of his home, according to KTAR in Phoenix, Arizona. He did not offer a time frame for when a vote might happen. Speaker Boehner has said he would bring a series of smaller immigration bills to the floor instead of a sweeping, comprehensive measure and that he only would call for a vote on a measure that had the support from a majority of Republicans.

As lawmakers push for a vote on immigration reform, hundreds of conservatives—including pastors, farmers, police chiefs, and business owners—are arriving in Washington, D.C., to meet with Republican members of Congress Tuesday about the need for immigration reform. They’re part of a “fly-in” to bring people to Washington with traditionally close connections to Republicans. “I’m not an advocate of blanket amnesty. I just see (undocumented immigrants) who are hurting and want to contribute to their family … and the system is not working for them,” Jeremy Hudson, a pastor whose Fellowship Christian Church operates in Boehner’s district, told USA Today. In addition to the hundreds of activists coming to meet with lawmakers, The Hill reports that Republican Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (FL), who was part of a bipartisan House group working on immigration reform earlier this year, and other lawmakers will meet with President Obama Tuesday to discuss the issue.

Actions and statements like those by Rep. Denham and Rep. Heck are promising developments that reflect the necessity of bipartisan action on immigration reform without regard to scoring political points. As Denham said on “Al Punto” he may get attacked for his decision, “but what is right for the American people and our economy should be the focus on the entire Congress.” That message cannot be repeated enough.

Photo Courtesy of Victoria Pickering.

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