House Democrat says GOP ‘having a relapse’ on immigration reform

A Democratic leader on immigration reform in the House is chiding Republican colleagues for backtracking on promises to overhaul the nation's border control laws, signaling fears that a bipartisan compromise in the chamber remains elusive.

FILE - In this Aug. 2, 2012 file photo, Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill., center, accompanied by fellow House members, speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington. House members writing a bipartisan immigration bill said Thursday they had patched over a dispute that threatened their efforts, even as they and the rest of Congress prepared to return home for a weeklong recess where many could confront voter questions on the issue. “I’m very pleased,” said Gutierrez. “We're going to get there. There's going to be justice done for our immigrant community.” (J. Scott Applewhite/AP)
Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) (File photo) (J. Scott Applewhite/AP)

"Over the past week, it seems Republicans are having a relapse," Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) wrote in an op-ed in the Huffington Post on Thursday. "The anti-immigrant policies and rhetoric are metastasizing and causing a substantial case of amnesia about the last election."

Gutierrez is part of a bipartisan House group that has been working privately on a comprehensive immigration reform bill, but the group has suffered delays and setbacks for months. Most recently, one of the original eight members, Rep. Raul Labrador (R-Idaho), dropped out of the coalition, citing a standoff over requirements related to health care for illegal immigrants.

Immigration advocates are hopeful that the House group can come to agreement, which would give Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) and other GOP leaders the option of moving forward with a comprehensive bill instead of smaller, piecemeal proposals favored by some conservatives.

Fearful that the progress has stalled, Gutierrez hit Republican colleagues for voting last week to defund President Obama's executive order last summer to defer deportations of young immigrants -- known as DREAMers -- who were brought to the United States illegally by their parents as children. Republicans said they believe Obama should not have usurped Congress.

The vote was mostly symbolic because the move is unlikely to be endorsed by the Democrat-controlled Senate. But it sparked widespread outrage among Latinos.

"What were you thinking? You should know better," Gutierrez wrote. "I thought you were leaving behind your get-tough-on-immigrants political games and had packed them deep in a storage unit with your 'Mitt for President' buttons."

Gutierrez praised the Republicans who are working with him to find a comprehensive proposal and said he remained hopeful they could produce a bill. Boehner has said he expects the House Judiciary Committee to vote on a measure by early next month, potentially setting up a vote by the full chamber before Aug. 1.

"I know you understand this issue better than your recent behavior betrays," Gutierrez wrote. "I think you can help your party get back on the path to recovery. Your nation, our nation, needs you to step up."

David Nakamura covers the White House. He has previously covered sports, education and city government and reported from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Japan.
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