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GOP skeptical Obama will negotiate on immigration

Sees White House making it priority after shutdown

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Rep. Raul R. Labrador, Idaho Republican, said that after President Obama refused to negotiate with Republicans on spending and debt he sees no reason to believe he will do so on immigration reform. Activists are waiting for action from the White House. (ASSOCIATED PRESS PHOTOGRAPHS)

Now that a temporary solution to the partial government shutdown and debt limit are at hand, President Obama says immigration is next — but House Republicans said that’s not likely.

Rep. Raul R. Labrador, Idaho Republican, who had been part of immigration negotiations in the House before dropping out, said after Mr. Obama refused to negotiate with the GOP over spending and debt, he sees no reason to trust the White House on immigration now.

And Rep. Tim Huelskamp, Kansas Republican, said he doubts the president is willing to show flexibility on the issue, and wondered whether Mr. Obama wants a bill, or would rather have the political issue.

“If the president says he doesn’t want border security,” Mr. Huelskamp said, “that kills the issue.”

Mr. Obama ignited the talk with comments Tuesday to a Spanish-language television station in Los Angeles, saying immigration was his priority once the shutdown was over.

“Once that’s done, you know, the day after, I’m going to be pushing to say, call a vote on immigration reform,” he told Univision’s affiliate in Los Angeles.

White House press secretary Jay Carney seemed to walk back those comments Wednesday, saying that Mr. Obama wasn’t suggesting a major new push.

“He’s not saying that he’s going to come out and push some Democratic agenda item. He wants to continue the effort that has been underway all year,” Mr. Carney said, adding that immigration was just one of “the many priorities” he wants to see action on.

For months the thought on Capitol Hill has been that the fights over spending and debt would crowd out immigration this year, and if it didn’t get done now, it wouldn’t pass in 2014, which is a congressional election year.

The sudden end of the debt fight, though, has some reconsidering that conventional wisdom — particularly with the way conservative House Republicans were unable to win their stance on the debt.

Some activist groups said that means they can be marginalized on other issues, such as immigration.

Sen. Jeff Flake, Arizona Republican, said he can see arguments on either side for whether the end of the shutdown means immigration is next or not.

He said he has no guess which of those is correct.

For now, activists said they will wait to see whether Mr. Obama makes good on his promise.

“Dreamers and the American people, however, especially Latino voters, have heard the same empty words and broken promises before from candidate Barack Obama and President Obama,” the Dream Action Coalition, a group of young immigrants advocating for legal status, said in an open letter.

They said Mr. Obama will be judged by whether he makes a determined effort to reach out to moderate Republicans and rejects the strategy being pursued by House Democrats that, the Dream Action Coalition said, is “to just make immigration a partisan issue to win more seats the next election.”

The advocates also want to see Mr. Obama take proactive steps to halt deportations.

About the Author

Stephen Dinan

Stephen Dinan can be reached at sdinan@washingtontimes.com.

Tom Howell Jr.

Tom Howell Jr. covers politics for The Washington Times. He can be reached at thowell@washingtontimes.com.

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