WASHINGTON — Rep. Luis Gutierrez D-Ill., a leader in the immigration movement, — who has been quietly seeking to forge compromises with House Republicans — told me he does not think the defeat of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor in the Virginia primary dooms the potential for a vote on some measures.
It’s a contrarian position, since Cantor’s loss to a little-known, poorly funded tea party challenger was seen as ending all hope — of which there already was little — that House GOP leaders would allow any votes on immigration bills.
Cantor was forced to run to the right of opponent Dave Brat, who positioned himself as a hardline immigration foe and accused Cantor of being open to “amnesty.”
Actually, Cantor was seen at times as in neither camp.
Gutierrez was a headliner at a pro-immigration reform rally in Richmond, Va. last month, bringing it home to Cantor’s district.
“Cantor’s defeat is a shock,” Gutierrez told me. “But it does not fundamentally change the math. There were 218-plus votes for immigration reform before his primary and they exist today.”
But Gutierrez’s math includes a mix of GOP and Democratic votes — and works only if GOP leaders, steered by House Speaker John Boehner R-Ohio, allow a vote. The thought is that Cantor’s defeat makes the prospect of a vote impossible for members who still may face a primary and have tea party opponents.
(That’s not a problem for the six Illinois GOP House members since the Illinois primary was last March.)
Said Gutierrez, “And it does not change the fact that the Republican party, if they are going to maintain themselves as a national party, need to do comprehensive immigration reform or they will be a party of localities, of provinces, of a few states and congressional districts. They will cease to exist as a national party.”
“And remember, the president still can use his pen to bring relief to our immigrant community and we are going to keep the pressure on Republicans and the president.”
President Barack Obama has been weighing taking executive actions to put in place some immigration reforms, but was hesitant to make a move until it was clear there was no hope the GOP House leaders would call a bill.
Obama asked Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, as White House principal deputy press secretary Josh Earnest said Wednesday “to conduct a review about the options that may be available through the President’s executive authority to try to address some of the most persistent problems with our broken immigration system. That review is still ongoing.”
On Friday Johnson travels to Illinois where, with Gutierrez and Sen. Dick Durbin D-Ill. he meets with local immigration leaders to discuss deportation policy. Johnson’s visit comes at Durbin’s invitation. Johnson and the lawmakers will tour the Broadview Immigration Detention Center — which gives Johnson a chance to talk with people who face being deported.