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U.S. immigration reform hinges on path to citizenship for undocumented workers: experts


14:12, July 14, 2013

WASHINGTON, July 13 (Xinhua) -- With both parties in the U.S. Congress looking hard at immigration reform, experts said no bill will pass that does not include a path to citizenship for around 11 million undocumented workers.

"Democrats will not accept a bill without a pathway to citizenship," Darrell West, a senior fellow at the Washington-based think tank Brookings Institution, told Xinhua.

He added that Democrats would rather pass no bill at all than one without that measure, which many maintain is the immigration issue's most pressing concern.

Indeed, in recent weeks the Democrat-led Senate passed an immigration overhaul that would beef up border security and provide a 13-year path to citizenship for those in the United States illegally.

But the Republican Party is split over the path to citizenship provision, with some supporting it and others contending that border security must happen first.

Others are wary of repeating former President Ronald Reagan's 1986 law that granted amnesty to nearly 3 million illegal immigrants. Critics have lambasted that bill as a failure, as it did not crack down on employers hiring undocumented workers.

Experts said it remains unclear which direction the Republican Party will take on the issue.

"It is unclear how many Republicans will go along," American Enterprise Institute senior fellow Karlyn Bowman told Xinhua. "The trajectory of this is unclear at this point."

Still, House Representative Bob Goodlatte, a key Republican lawmaker who has long been against a path to citizenship, indicated he might be open to the idea.

The chairman of the House Judiciary Committee said Thursday on C-Span TV he would be open to a path for undocumented workers to "come out of the shadows," pay taxes and work legally in the United States.

Immigration reform is a make-or-break issue for Republicans, and the Republican Party insiders say the leadership understands it needs to get more Hispanic voters on board or risk losing this important demographic. Passing an immigration bill could be a much hoped-for door opener to allow the GOP to make inroads with Hispanics.

But Republican Strategist Ford O'Connell told Xinhua that immigration is not on the radar screen of a number of rank-and-file Republicans. That's because only a small percentage of House districts have 20 percent or more of minority voters, making it difficult for many lawmakers to understand the importance of a pathway to citizenship, he said.

Latinos, who comprise a major voting block in the United States, favor immigration reform, and voted overwhelmingly in favor of Democrats in last year's presidential election.

With 50,000 Hispanics reaching voting age every month, analysts say Republicans can no longer rely solely on white voters to win elections, according to the recent U.S. census.

After losing the presidential race to Democrats last November, U.S. Republicans have set out to shift their image from what some view as a party of old, white men to one more in tune with an increasingly multi-cultural America.

While soul searching within the party has occurred for some time, Republicans were jolted after they lost 71 percent of the Latino vote and 55 percent of women voters in November's presidential election.

West added that Republican Party inaction on immigration could provide fodder for Democrats in the 2014 mid-term elections.

Others believe Republican lawmakers may hold off on immigration reform until after the elections, as passing a path to citizenship could hurt Republicans with their conservative base. Enditem

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