It is possible—though not, at this point, probable—that the House will pass an immigration reform bill before the end of the year. But even if the House passes a bill, it may not be a bill that the Senate will accept. There are two main ways a House immigration reform bill could fall short of what it needs to pass through Congress and become law.
While a pathway to citizenship is an essential component of any immigration reform bill that will pass in the Senate, the opposite is nearly true for a bill to pass in the House. The House of Representatives has opted to craft several small immigration reform bills rather than one comprehensive bill, which means that if a pathway to citizenship came up for a vote in the House, members of the House would be free to reject the legislation without threatening other aspects of immigration reform. If Democrats continue to vow that immigration reform can go nowhere without a pathway to citizenship, and Republicans continue to vow that reform cannot move forward with one, then the issue may be dead in the water.
The second highly tenuous aspect of immigration reform legislation is the guest worker deal. Both Republicans and Democrats tend to lean in favor of making it easier for American companies to hire highly skilled foreign talent. The Chamber of Commerce and labor unions have been at odds over the issue for some time, and the bill passed by the Senate contained a compromise between the two groups. The guest worker part of the Senate bill is so delicate, say some insiders, that really any alteration to it would end its effectiveness. If the House of Representatives is serious about passing immigration reform that contains a guest worker program, the House likely needs to adopt that part of the Senate bill as-is. The House, however, has its own ideas about the guest worker program, and the idea of adopting the Senate compromise wholesale may not sit well with some members of the House.
The guest worker program was the last major issue the Senate needed to hammer out for inclusion in the immigration reform bill. “This issue has always been the deal breaker on immigration reform, but not this time,” said Chuck Schumer, a Democrat from New York. The agreement concerned the pay levels of low-skilled immigrants. Guest workers, it was decided, would be paid either the actual employer wage or the prevailing industry wage—whichever is higher. Additionally, guest workers would be eligible for citizenship and would be allowed to switch jobs. It is an open question whether the balance struck in the Senate bill can be duplicated in the House.
Source: TPM, “Top 5 Reasons Boehner’s Plan For Immigration Reform May Blow Up,” Sahil Kapur,
August 19, 2013
Source: NY Times, “Labor and Business Reach Deal on Immigration Issue,” Ashley Parker and Steven Greenhouse,
March 30, 2013