A Fight Over Immigration in the Republican Party

29 June, 2014

Traditional and conservative members of the Republican party differ on immigration policies. The two sides had strong differences even before large numbers of Central American children began entering the United States illegally over the past few months.

Experts believe there are about 11 million illegal immigrants in the United States now. Last year, the Democratic-controlled Senate approved legislation that would, over many years, permit many of them to become U.S. citizens. But the Republican-controlled House of Representatives has yet to act on the bill. And House leaders say they have no plans to do so.

A Fight Over Immigration in the Republican Party
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor speaks to his supporters June 10, 2014 following his loss in the Republican party primary to Tea Party candidate Dave Brat.

VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone has been reporting on U.S. immigration policies for many years. He says the differences between Democrats and Republicans mean Congress is unlikely to approve a new immigration law anytime soon.

"We're at the point now where it looks as though any efforts to enact sweeping immigration reform -- where we talk about a path to citizenship for the 11 million or so estimated illegals in the country now -- that looks to be dead for this political year."

Jim Malone says Tea Party supporters so strongly oppose letting illegal immigrants stay in this country that they will try to defeat anyone who disagrees. Recently, a little-known Tea Party candidate who opposes citizenship for illegal immigrants defeated House Majority Leader Eric Cantor in a primary election in Virginia. It was the first time in American history that a House majority leader had been defeated in a primary election.

"You know when you see that, that makes a politician revert to, kinda one word, which is ‘fear,' and it's gonna cause them to really be very careful in what they support."

This story was based on reports by VOA reporters Ken Bredemeier and Kenneth Schwartz