WASHINGTON – An immigration reform bill that includes a path to citizenship now appears unlikely, but there is a possibility of getting a path to some other form of legal status, speakers at the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference's "Justice Summit" said Tuesday.
Republican leaders are now working on legislation that would provide legalization, but not a path to citizenship, for current unauthorized immigrants, the Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, president of the NHCLC, explained. And, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), who has been a leading spokesperson for those opposed to the Senate's immigration reform bill, told Rodriguez he could support such a plan.
Several members of Congress met with the NHCLC during the two-day summit.
Rodriguez was on a panel hosted by The Christian Post and moderated by Dr. Richard Land, executive editor for CP and president of Southern Evangelical Seminary.
The NHCLC has been a strong supporter of immigration reform and has called for a path to citizenship as part of a broad reform package. Rodriguez, who is also a senior editorial advisor for CP, told the NHCLC members in attendance that they would have "a lot more conversation" in the next few weeks about whether or not they would support the proposed compromise.
Robert Gittelson, vice president of governmental affairs for the NHCLC, seemed supportive of the proposal. While he wants citizenship, he explained, he is also pragmatic and realistic.
"I would like to have a path to citizenship. I would love even more for everybody to be safe. For all of our families to be able to live in dignity, for all of our families to live above board and live a normal productive life and pursue the American dream. They can do that without a path to citizenship, as long as they have a significant legal status," he said.
Two of the main obstacles for passage of immigration reform has been that House leaders will not bring any legislation to the floor that does not have the support of a majority of Republicans, and will not join a conference committee with the Senate's bill. Gittelson believes, though, that a bill that provides a path to legal status, but not a path to citizenship, has the support of a majority of House Republicans.
"Let's take what we can get now and fight about citizenship another day," he advised. "Let's get families into a state of safety."
One factor that Rodriguez believes will cause Republicans to take notice of immigration reform is New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's reelection. Christie received 50 percent of the Latino vote, he explained, and that was, in part, due to his support for comprehensive immigration reform, according to exit polls.
"The Chris Christie factor is ginormous," Rodriguez argued, because it showed that Republicans can "make inroads" with Latino communities by supporting immigration reform.
"Immigration reform will determine whether a Republican" can win the White House in 2016, he concluded.