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Politics, government and public life for Southern California

What's next for House immigration deal?

Republican Congressman Dana Rohrabacher of Huntington Beach is opposed to a path to citizenship in an immigration reform bill.
Republican Congressman Dana Rohrabacher of Huntington Beach is opposed to a path to citizenship in an immigration reform bill. Gage Skidmore/Flickr/Creative Commons

The bipartisan group of U.S. Representatives known as the "Gang of Eight" has an agreement on what should be included in the House immigration bill. Here's what we know — and what happens next.

There is no bill, just an agreement to file bipartisan legislation on immigration. Democratic Congressman Xavier Becerra of Los Angeles — one of the "Gang of Eight" — declined to give specifics, saying he wants to be "respectful of the agreement that we had to try to really get this done without speaking publicly about what are still private conversations that need to be translated into a full agreement."

The bill is expected to be more conservative than the Senate immigration version, which is already in hearings. Florida Republican Congressman Mario Diaz-Balart, another "Gang of Eight" member, couched the details in his description of what the American people will accept: a legal way for the undocumented to stay in the U.S. in exchange for a promise to solve this once and for all.

Diaz-Balert said that means securing the borders, creating a temporary visa program "that fulfills our economic need," and a guarantee that the undocumented not be a public charge. "In other words," he said, the American people are willing to be generous, "but what they're saying — and I think rightfully so — is, 'Hey, don't make me pay for this.'"

One sticking point in the House negotiations reportedly was health care. The Senate bill does not allow the estimated 11 million undocumented to buy into the new health insurance exchanges for at least a decade. L.A. County officials recently were in Washington to tell Congress that local jurisdictions will end up paying for emergency room visits. In L.A. County alone, that's an estimated one million undocumented residents.

Texas Republican Congressman John Carter said the "Gang of Eight" "tried our very best to keep taxpayer dollars from being spent." He said that's not just federal dollars — "Taxpayer dollars from top to bottom."

Carter said he's hopeful county officials will be satisfied when they see the package. But it could mean a blanket requirement that all immigrants buy insurance on their own, or get it from their employers if they want to proceed along the legalization process.

The first test of the immigration bill is likely to come in the House Judiciary Committee. Congressman Carter acknowledged it won't be easy. "You got all the far right, you got all the far left on the Judiciary Committee." But he said there were "the same kind of people" in the House bipartisan group, "so you never know."

And then there's the rest of the House. Republican Dana Rohrabacher of Huntington Beach said whatever deal his colleagues worked out, he's still against a path to citizenship, which he labels an insult to those who followed the rules.

Rohrabacher said he opposed to "Any of these compromises and comprehensive programs that are out there trying to fool the public into thinking it's something other than amnesty." He said legalizing the status of someone who's here illegally will encourage more people to cross the border. Speaking for legislators who will draw a line in the sand on a path to citizenship, he said, simply: "We are against it."

It's likely to be at least another week before the House immigration bill is formally introduced. The "Gang of Eight" wants another opportunity to review the measure and sign off on language. They want a vote on the House floor on the measure before the Senate sends over its own immigration bill. That Senate vote is expected next month.

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