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 1:50 PM EDT, Sun September 21, 2014
John Sutter boarded a leaky oyster boat in Connecticut with a captain who can't swim as he set off to get world leaders to act on climate change
updated 7:22 PM EDT, Fri September 19, 2014
Is ballet dying? CNN spoke with Isabella Boylston, a principal dancer at the American Ballet Theatre, about the future of the art form.
updated 5:47 PM EDT, Fri September 19, 2014
Sally Kohn says it's time we take climate change as seriously as we do warfare in the Middle East
updated 9:02 AM EDT, Fri September 19, 2014
Dean Obeidallah says an Oklahoma state representative's hateful remarks were rightfully condemned by religious leaders..
updated 3:22 PM EDT, Fri September 19, 2014
No matter how much planning has gone into U.S. military plans to counter the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, the Arab public isn't convinced that anything will change, says Geneive Abdo
updated 11:44 AM EDT, Fri September 19, 2014
President Obama's strategy for destroying ISIS seems to depend on a volley of air strikes. That won't be enough, says Haider Mullick.
updated 9:03 AM EDT, Fri September 19, 2014
Paul Begala says Hillary Clinton has plenty of good reasons not to jump into the 2016 race now
updated 11:01 AM EDT, Fri September 19, 2014
Scotland decided to trust its 16-year-olds to vote in the biggest question in its history. Americans, in contrast, don't even trust theirs to help pick the county sheriff. Who's right?
updated 9:57 PM EDT, Thu September 18, 2014
Ruben Navarrette says spanking is an acceptable form of disciplining a child, as long as you follow the rules.
updated 11:47 AM EDT, Fri September 19, 2014
Frida Ghitis says the foiled Australian plot shows ISIS is working diligently to taunt the U.S. and its allies.
updated 3:58 PM EDT, Fri September 19, 2014
Young U.S. voters by and large just do not see the midterm elections offering legitimate choices because, in their eyes, Congress has proven to be largely ineffectual, and worse uncaring, argues John Della Volpe
updated 9:58 PM EDT, Thu September 18, 2014
Steven Holmes says spanking, a practice that is ingrained in our culture, accomplishes nothing positive and causes harm.
updated 2:31 PM EDT, Thu September 18, 2014
Sally Kohn says America tried "Cowboy Adventurism" as a foreign policy strategy; it failed. So why try it again?
updated 10:27 AM EDT, Thu September 18, 2014
Van Jones says the video of John Crawford III, who was shot by a police officer in Walmart, should be released.
updated 10:48 AM EDT, Thu September 18, 2014
NASA will need to embrace new entrants and promote a lot more competition in future, argues Newt Gingrich.
updated 7:15 PM EDT, Tue September 16, 2014
If U.S. wants to see real change in Iraq and Syria, it will have to empower moderate forces, says Fouad Siniora.
updated 8:34 PM EDT, Wed September 17, 2014
Mark O'Mara says there are basic rules to follow when interacting with law enforcement: respect their authority.
updated 9:05 AM EDT, Tue September 16, 2014
LZ Granderson says Congress has rebuked the NFL on domestic violence issue, but why not a federal judge?
updated 7:49 AM EDT, Tue September 16, 2014
Mel Robbins says the only person you can legally hit in the United States is a child. That's wrong.
updated 1:23 PM EDT, Mon September 15, 2014
Eric Liu says seeing many friends fight so hard for same-sex marriage rights made him appreciate marriage.
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT