Shortly after telling children of immigrants who confronted him at breakfast that he wants to deal with immigration reform, House Speaker John Boehner refused to commit to a deadline on taking up legislation.
Asked when he would deal with the issue, Boehner would not set a timeline. He said House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., is working with Democrats to develop a set of principles “for us to deal with this issue.”
“As we develop the principle, we’ll figure it out,” Boehner said.
He also said the House has “no intention of ever going to conference on the Senate bill.”
His comments were countered by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., with a tweet:
H.R. 15 is the name of the Democrats immigration reform bill.
Boehner’s comments follow a statement made last week by House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy that immigration reform would not happen this year. McCarthy is the No. 3 leader in the House and his job is to track how votes are lining up on legislation and muster those needed on bills leadership wants to move.
Earlier, Boehner was having his usual breakfast at Pete’s Diner near the Capitol when the young immigrants, both teenagers, approached him and asked, “How would you feel if you had to tell your kids at the age of 10 that you were never coming home?”
The speaker declined invitations from Carmen Lima, 13, and Jennifer Martinez, 16, to sit with them while they ate, but did agree to listen to their stories. Lima and Martinez were in the nation’s capital this week to participate in activities organized by immigration activists escalating the pressure on the House GOP.
Lima of San Diego told Boehner her father could be deported. She asked the Speaker how it would feel to tell his children he was never coming home again.
“That wouldn’t be good,” Boehner replied.
“That’s what happened to me,” Lima said. ” I thought I never was going to see my dad again _ I cried so hard when my mom told me that at the age of 10,” Lima said before asking if she could count on Boehner’s vote for immigration reform.
Lima is originally from Toluca, Mexico, and arrived when she was 8, while her father had a 10-year work visa. His employer was supposed to sponsor him to have permanent legal residency within two years of their arrival, but it never happened, Lima told NBC Latino in an interview.
The visa was still valid in 2010 when he was pulled over my a police officer as he exited a highway ramp and was taken to immigration detention. She had to ask her mother what deported meant when she asked what had happened to her father. He was able to be released on bail that Christmas and has been out on bail since then. Lima acted as translator to help her father get his initial bail. They are awaiting a 2015 court date.
Martinez said she has been lucky not to be separated from her father.
“Many kids … they miss out on years with their parents and families. You said you were a father. Imagine missing out on your kids’ football games, their soccer games” said Martinez of Washington state. “We’d really, really appreciate if you pushed, do whatever is in your power to move this bill forward.”
Boehner told the girls he agreed with them.
Boehner has previously said that immigration reform is an issue that needs to be addressed and that he was hopeful it would be. But the House is taking its time to move individual bills through the chamber and GOP leaders have continually said they have no interest in taking up or going to a conference committee on the bipartisan, sweeping immigration bill passed in June by the Senate, 68-32.
Often, when chambers pass separate, differing bills, they go to conference to work out the differences and come to a compromise that can be sent to the president and become law. The House could pass its own bills and send them over to the Senate to be put up for a vote there, but that hasn’t been discussed yet.
While talking to the teens, the Speaker said: ”I’m trying to find some way to get this thing done. It’s as you know, not easy, not going to be an easy path forward but I made it clear since the day after the election, it’s time to get this done.”
Later with reporters, Boehner was more wedded to the path the House has taken.
“We need to go about this in a way that the American people and our members can absorb. There are hundreds of issues related to immigration reform. We need to deal with these in a commonsense way in which our members understand what we’re doing and what their constituents are doing,” Boehner said.
Some lawmakers have said the window for getting immigration reform remains open into next year. By the end of March, most state’s election filing deadlines have passed so most House members will know whether they face a primary challenger and who it is. Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., has said the passing of that deadline may make it easier for some members to cast a vote for immigration reform legislation.
The teenagers’ surprise meeting with Boehner came after attempts to arrange meetings with certain House members were declined. The Fair Immigration Reform Movement brought the children to Washington for its Keeping Families Together: Youth in Action campaign this week.
On Thursday, several children plan a short march to the Capitol from a nearby church and a meeting with participants in the 1963 Children’s Crusade in Birmingham, Ala. The 1963 crusade triggered outrage nationally and rekindled the Civil Rights Movements after images of dogs and fire hoses turned on the children were broadcast nationally.
The children’s march is one of several activities, including a handful of people who have given up food indefinitely, activists have launched to get Congress moving on immigration reform.
While the children met with Boehner, the president was meeting with faith leaders at the White House, where faith leaders expresed concern about the immigration system’s impact on their congregations, according to a statement issued by the White House. The president and faith leaders discussed a shared commitment to “raise the moral imperative for immigration reform.”
Watch the exchange between the immigrant children and Boehner below in a video provided by Center for Community Change, which advocates on immigration reform: