You might call it a preview of the battle to come over immigration in the House.
Less than 24 hours after the Senate Judiciary Committee approved a comprehensive immigration bill, the House Judiciary Committee used a hearing to find its flaws. The divide was clearly along party lines.
Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee asked witnesses whether they agreed the border enforcement provisions in the Senate bill were weaker than current law. Democrats asked whether witnesses agreed that E-verify, the electronic employment verification system in the Senate bill, would create more secure documents.
GOP members asked witnesses if they believed the President would actually enforce immigration laws. Democrat Luis Gutierrez of Illinois pointed to deportation numbers, saying the current administration had an “appetite” for deportation. Republicans countered that the President was “cooking the books.”
San Jose Democrat Zoe Lofgren — one of the so-called "Gang of Eight" members negotiating the House immigration bill — reminded her colleagues they were supposed to be discussing whether the Senate bill addressed the shortcomings of the 1986 immigration bill.
Lofgren cited two reasons immigrants have continued to cross the border over the past quarter century: "We did not set up a system to meet America's economic needs, and also there's backlogs in some cases of husbands and wives of legal residents being separated for half a decade."
The Senate bill includes visas for agricultural and high-tech workers, and vows to reduce the backlog for family reunification.
Republican Congressman Steve King of Iowa was not impressed. He called comprehensive immigration a euphemism for amnesty. King ridiculed those who say the GOP lost the White House because of Mitt Romney's self-deportation comment. Instead, he blamed the new voters created by that 1986 immigration bill.
"I don't believe Barack Obama would be president today," said King, "if Ronald Reagan hadn't made the most colossal mistake of his career in signing the 1986 amnesty act. He let me down that day."
The House "Gang of Eight" is still trying to reach an agreement on its own immigration plan. But they're running out of time. Otherwise, the House will have to deal with the Senate's version, which could clear the upper chamber in early June after the Memorial Day recess.