Quick Hit Nathan Greenhalgh Friday November 15th, 2013, 1:32pm

Duckworth Says Broad Support For Immigration Reform May Circumvent Republican Opposition

U.S. Rep. Tammy Duckworth said she “has some optimism” that Congress can pass immigration reform despite House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH,8) announcing on Wednesday that House Republicans will not conference the recent Senate bill.

In a town hall meeting via teleconference Thursday evening, Duckworth told Progress Illinois that the amount of the support for the issue may overcome congressional Republican resistance to comprehensive immigration reform, although she conceded that it will not be easy to accomplish.

“It is not just Democrats who want this, I have spoken with chambers of commerce and businesses that want to see comprehensive immigration reform,” Duckworth said. “Where we are now won’t work. I think we have an opportunity before the next election, but it’s going to be a tough road.”

Recent polls support Duckworth’s statement. Duckworth supports a 10- to 15-year pathway to citizenship that would require people who came to the U.S. illegally to step forward and pay fines, pass a criminal background check, learn English and pay their full share of taxes owed. A recent poll by Republicans for Immigration Reform, Partnership for a New American Economy and Compete America showed 71 percent support for such a proposal in key battleground states. Over the past several months, Illinois has seen even higher polling numbers in support of immigration reform.

Duckworth said she is willing to compromise if more moderate House Republicans would agree on a bill similar to the Senate's bipartisan “Gang of Eight” comprehensive immigration reform bill. To help accomplish this, Duckworth encouraged teleconference participants to reach out to Republican lawmakers, particularly U.S. Reps. Rodney Davis (R-IL,13) and Peter Roskam (R-IL,6).

“Moderate Republicans need a lot of love. They’re close but not quite there,” Duckworth said. “Call Rodney Davis or Peter Roskam just to let them know that you would like either the Gang of Eight bill or any version of it so we could have a bill.”

Indeed, Boehner’s opposition could become irrelevant if just enough House Republicans decided to switch ranks on the issue. If immigration reform supporters could get 218 House members to support a discharge petition, a vote could be held without Boehner’s approval. The House’s version of the Senate bill currently has 193 supporters, only three of which are Republican.

“It’s hard to get those signatures, but when you do get the signatures, historically the bill becomes a law,” Duckworth said.

When asked about immigration reform’s economic impact, Duckworth cited data from the Congressional Budget Office, which shows that passing the Senate bill would decrease federal budget deficits by $197 billion over the next ten years and about $700 billion over the following decade. Meanwhile, the real gross domestic product would increase by 3.3 percent over the next ten years and 5.4 percent over the following decade.

“In the long run this is good for our economy. The 11 million undocumented people, anytime you can take them out of the shadows, that is good for us,” Duckworth said.

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