WASHINGTON -- House Democrats said on Wednesday that a piecemeal approach to immigration reform isn't going to win their support because they don't trust that Republicans will try to tackle the full issue if they just deal with it in bits and pieces.
"There is a problem with comprehensive immigration reform, and we know what it is," Rep. Joe Garcia (D-Fla.) said at a press conference, referring to House Republicans. "The idea that that same party who cannot pass anything ... is now piecemeal going to do this is a fallacy."
Democrats have said in the past, and reiterated on Wednesday, that they're open to voting on multiple bills rather than a single comprehensive one. But Democrats don't want to reform some parts of the immigration system and not others because they see the issues as interconnected. House Republicans have taken very different approaches on bills for enforcement since discussions began on immigration reform, and have shown little interest in Democratic priorities -- such as creating a path to citizenship -- which could fall by the wayside if they pass only smaller GOP-sponsored bills.
Democrats recently introduced their own comprehensive bill, a combination of the legislation that passed the Senate 68-32 in June and a border security bill that passed the House Homeland Security Committee unanimously in May. The comprehensive bill has 184 Democratic cosponsors but no Republicans, and GOP leadership aides dismissed the idea that it would be brought to a vote.
While GOP leadership says it will focus on step-by-step reform, some Republicans have said they should put immigration aside entirely after the recent fight over government funding and the debt limit. Rep. Raul Labrador (R-Idaho), who earlier this year was working on comprehensive reform with Democrats, said they should block even more narrow legislation to avoid being rolled by Democrats.
But others, such as House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), say they are still interested.
"I still think that immigration reform is an important subject that needs to be addressed and I am hopeful," Boehner told reporters earlier Wednesday.
Some GOP members are working on bills that would give legal status to undocumented immigrants. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) and Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) have been working since the summer on a bill to give legal status, or potentially a path to citizenship, to so-called Dreamers, but there is no date set for introduction and a chief sponsor has not yet been determined, according to aides.
That legislation will include pieces of a bill from Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Colo.) to allow citizenship for undocumented young people who enlist in the military, Coffman said on Wednesday. He and other immigration reform supporters, some Republicans and some Democrats, spoke at a briefing on the need for reform for would-be military service members.
Rep. David Valadao (R-Calif.) said at the event that Boehner told him he expects "a vote before the end of the year" on some type of immigration bill. "I'm going to do my best to hold him to that," Valadao said.
Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) challenged House Republicans to take the legislation on its merits rather than blocking it simply to hurt the president's agenda.
"You don't want to do it because you don't like Barack Obama?" Gutierrez said at the briefing. "Well the last time I checked, there's 435 of us in the House of Representatives, and he doesn't get a vote. He's not on any of the committees, he doesn't get to introduce the legislation. We do. We get to vote on it. So why don't we get 218 of us to get it done."