Skip to main content

GOP, open door to immigration reform

By Steve Israel, Special to CNN
updated 7:51 AM EDT, Thu August 1, 2013
Steve Israel says House Republicans, led by Speaker John Boehner,should stop thwarting immigration reform.
Steve Israel says House Republicans, led by Speaker John Boehner,should stop thwarting immigration reform.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Steve Israel says his grandparents fled persecution in Russia to seek promise of U.S.
  • He says post-election hopes that the parties could unite over immigration reform have dimmed
  • He says Rep. King has insulted Latinos; Boehner-led GOP using procedural tactics to deny vote
  • Israel: Boehner's use of Hastert Rule is barrier to bipartisanship, thwarts will of the people

Editor's note: Steve Israel is a Democratic representative from New York and chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

(CNN) -- Whenever I have to make a tough decision, I look up at the wall of my office, where I have hung the original immigration certificates and pictures of my grandparents. They fled Russia and immigrated to the United States at the turn of the last century.

Though I lost them many years ago, they have always been my source of inspiration. I look into those eyes that saw poverty, persecution, anti-Semitism and hatred, and along with fear, I see something else: hope. Their eyes are wide open to the promise and opportunity of America.

After the 2012 elections, it seemed there was one issue that could unite Republicans and Democrats: reforming our nation's broken immigration system so that more people like my grandparents could live the American Dream.

Fast-forward eight months. In the Senate, the hope for bipartisan cooperation is now reality. By a wide margin -- one that is unheard-of in today's polarized Washington -- the Senate passed a comprehensive immigration bill that guarantees our nation's borders are secure, protects American workers and offers undocumented immigrants an earned path to citizenship that is tough but fair.

Steve Israel
Steve Israel

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office reports (PDF) that comprehensive immigration reform will strengthen our economy and reduce the deficit, so not only is reform the right thing to do, it's also fiscally sound policy.

The only obstacles to finally fixing our broken immigration system are Speaker John Boehner and House Republicans. If House Republicans fail to act, voters who care about this issue -- especially our growing Hispanic population -- will know they can't count on House Republicans.

Instead of moving forward in the weeks since the Senate bill passed, House Republicans have allowed intolerant voices to remain the face of their party on immigration. People like Rep. Steve King, who has compared immigrants to dogs and DREAM Act-eligible children to drug runners, don't deserve a place on the Judiciary Committee that will decide the future of immigration reform.

Steve King on Immigration, Welfare
The push for immigration overhaul
Morgan Spurlock as migrant farm worker

If House Republicans are serious about having a constructive debate, they will remove King from his position of authority. While it is true that Boehner's House has given us little reason to be optimistic and King's rhetoric is contrary to the principles that make this country great, I still have hope for the future of immigration reform.

There are several House Republicans whose constituents will demand progress on immigration, and House Democrats want to work with them on finally achieve lasting reform. We can do this, but only if we do it together.

We all came to Congress knowing we would face hard choices. For Boehner, that hard choice means abandoning the foolish Hastert Rule, which requires that "the majority of the majority" party support legislation before it can be brought to a vote in the whole House, an artificial barrier to bipartisan cooperation. In effect, the rule keeps the speaker in power while preventing Republicans and Democrats from coming together. And most troubling, it thwarts the will of the people, a consequence that is fundamentally at odds with who we are as Americans.

I don't think that when my grandparents took those pictures, they ever imagined they would be hanging in the United States Capitol. But I know that if they believed that it was possible anywhere, it was only possible here -- because they had a voice in their government.

There are 434 members of the House who could probably tell a similarly inspiring story about their families' immigration journeys. For the good of the country, I hope Boehner draws strength from all of these stories to do what is right for this nation of immigrants.

Follow @CNNOpinion on Twitter.

Join us at Facebook/CNNOpinion.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Steve Israel.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 8:35 AM EDT, Mon July 21, 2014
Frida Ghitis: Anger over MH17 is growing against pro-Russia separatists. It's time for the Dutch government to lead, she writes
updated 8:27 AM EDT, Mon July 21, 2014
Julian Zelizer says President Obama called inequality the "defining challenge" of our time but hasn't followed through.
updated 7:57 AM EDT, Mon July 21, 2014
Gene Seymour says the 'Rockford Files' actor worked the persona of the principled coward, charming audiences on big and small screen for generations
updated 10:17 AM EDT, Mon July 21, 2014
Daniel Treisman says that when the Russian leader tied his fate to the Ukraine separatists, he set the stage for his current risky predicament
updated 12:42 PM EDT, Fri July 18, 2014
Andrew Kuchins says urgent diplomacy -- not sanctions -- is needed to de-escalate the conflict in Ukraine that helped lead to the downing of an airliner there.
updated 9:50 PM EDT, Fri July 18, 2014
Jim Hall and Peter Goelz say there should be an immediate and thorough investigation into what happened to MH17.
updated 11:07 AM EDT, Fri July 18, 2014
Pilot Bill Palmer says main defense commercial jets have against missiles is to avoid flying over conflict areas.
updated 1:55 PM EDT, Sun July 20, 2014
Valerie Jarrett says that working women should not be discriminated against because they are pregnant.
updated 3:53 PM EDT, Mon July 21, 2014
David Wheeler says the next time you get a difficult customer representative, think about recording the call.
updated 3:33 PM EDT, Fri July 18, 2014
Newt Gingrich says the more dangerous the world becomes the more Obama hides in a fantasy world.
updated 6:11 AM EDT, Fri July 18, 2014
Michael Desch: It's hard to see why anyone, including Russia and its local allies, would have intentionally targeted the Malaysian Airlines flight
updated 3:14 PM EDT, Thu July 17, 2014
LZ Granderson says we must remember our visceral horror at the news of children killed in an airstrike on a Gaza beach next time our politicians talk of war
updated 8:06 AM EDT, Thu July 17, 2014
Sally Kohn says now the House GOP wants to sue Obama for not implementing a law fast enough, a law they voted down 50 times, all reason has left the room.
updated 8:14 AM EDT, Thu July 17, 2014
A street sign for Wall Street
Sens. Elizabeth Warren, John McCain and others want to scale back the "too big to fail" banks that put us at risk of another financial collapse.
updated 4:16 PM EDT, Thu July 17, 2014
Newt Gingrich writes an open letter to Robert McDonald, the nominee to head the Veterans Administration.
updated 12:01 PM EDT, Fri July 18, 2014
Paul Begala says Dick Cheney has caused an inordinate amount of damage yet continues in a relentless effort to revise the history of his failures.
updated 10:04 AM EDT, Fri July 18, 2014
Kids who takes cell phones to bed are not sleeping, says Mel Robbins. Make them park their phones with the parents at night.
updated 1:29 PM EDT, Thu July 17, 2014
Buzz Aldrin looked at planet Earth as he stood on talcum-like lunar dust 45 years ago. He thinks the next frontier should be Mars.
updated 2:04 PM EDT, Wed July 16, 2014
Mark Zeller never thought my Afghan translator would save his life by killing two Taliban fighters who were about to kill him. The Taliban retaliated by placing him on the top of its kill list.
updated 11:18 AM EDT, Thu July 17, 2014
Jeff Yang says an all-white cast of Asian characters in cartoonish costumes is racially offensive.
updated 9:24 PM EDT, Wed July 16, 2014
Gary Ginsberg says the late John F. Kennedy Jr.'s reaction to an event in 1995 summed up his character
updated 12:41 PM EDT, Wed July 16, 2014
Meg Urry says most falling space debris lands on the planet harmlessly and with no witnesses.
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT