The Dallas Morning News
By Emily Wilkins
WASHINGTON– With a major immigration debate underway in the Senate, three Texas conservatives in the U.S. House were promoting a focused effort to beef up border security on Wednesday.
Rep. Bill Flores, R-Bryan, said that’s far more likely to pass than a bill that tackles all facets of immigration reform at the same time.
“It takes individual pieces to get 218 votes,” he said, referring to a majority in the 435-member House. “To get buy-in from the House, you would need to start with what I call the white hot issue, and that’s border security.”
He and other members of the House Immigration Reform Caucus, a conservative group, are pushing a “SMART Border Bill” that would allow for deployment of up to 10,000 National Guard troops to states along the Mexican border at a governor’s request.
Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, is advocating for a similar amendment as the Senate debates the bipartisan Gang of Eight bill. That bill would tighten border security and enforcement – though not enough to satisfy hard liners. It also would expand legal immigration, create a guest worker program, and allow eventual citizenship for immigrants in the country illegally, which many conservatives oppose.
“The border is not, in my opinion, under operational control,”
At a news conference, Flores and Rep. Lamar Smith, R-San Antonio, cited a Rasmussen poll showing that voters are more concerned with border security than other elements of immigration reform. The survey found that 60 percent of likely voters think theU.S.should gain more control of the border before legalizing the status of immigrants.
“There are some Republicans who want comprehensive immigration reform and I understand that, but I just don’t think that’s in the best interest of Americans or American workers or American taxpayers,” said Smith, former Judiciary Committee chairman and a leading conservative voice on immigration policy.
But the immigration bill has elevated the debate as to whether undocumented immigrants should be allowed to be citizens or given amnesty. While some Republicans are firmly opposed, Flores could entertain the idea to give immigrants a legal status in the country with the opportunity to become citizens in time.
“I’m not the one to say we should ship everyone home. I don’t think that’s a good solution,” Flores said. “What I think might make more sense – and I’m not saying this is where I am today – is come up with a path to legal status and legitimacy where they can work here, they can live here, and they don’t have to worry about being deported. And then if they later opt to go into the nationalization process, you know, I probably wouldn’t have a problem with that.”