Politics, government and public life for Southern California

Immigration reform: Anything less than citizenship is so 'last century,' says Rep. Becerra

Democratic Congressman Xavier Becerra of Los Angeles

Kitty Felde/KPCC

Democratic Caucus Chair Becerra updates reporters on status of "Gang of Seven" immigration bill

President Obama made the rounds of Spanish-language TV networks Tuesday night to talk about immigration reform. The President said there's a problem with the House GOP approach of tackling reform in pieces, which could result in the topics that are hardest to swallow being saved for last "If you’ve eaten your dessert before you’ve eaten your meal – at least with my children – sometimes they don’t end up eating their vegetables."

There's a lot of talking going on about immigration reform on Capitol Hill — much of it in back rooms. And to pick up on the president's analogy, the question is whether those legislative vegetables are served buffet-style or mixed into a casserole. 

The House is still waiting for the bi-partisan "Gang of Seven" members to introduce their comprehensive immigration bill. It's unlikely to happen before Labor Day.

Democrat Xavier Becerra of Los Angeles insists the delay is due to the group making sure what he and other members agreed to is reflected in the bill's language. He says they're also taking a look at the Senate bill that's already passed, looking for "the best ideas." Becerra says if there's something that the Senate did "that is good, we'll look at it."

RELATED: #ProjectCitizen: What does it mean to be a good citizen?

House leadership isn't waiting. Several individual bills from Republicans are making their way through committee. None of them include a pathway to citizenship. Becerra calls that "last century's conversation," and says it's unlikely to get Democratic support. "Any effort to create a second class of Americans," he says, "I just can't swallow that."

Republican House leaders are working on a proposal to allow citizenship for undocumented young people brought to this country by their parents — an idea Becerra says is "constructive." On Wednesday, House Speaker John Boehner also endorsed the idea, saying "this is about basic fairness." He says "many of our members think this issue needs to be addressed."

Wednesday night, L.A. Democratic Congressman Tony Cardenas gets an hour on the floor for  House freshmen to talk about immigration. Nearly two dozen fellow Democratic freshmen will give speeches about what the effect of immigration reform would be in their districts.

Over on the Senate side of the Capitol, "Gang of Eight" members are meeting with leaders from Silicon Valley and other outside groups on how to pressure House Republicans on immigration reform during the August recess. Speaker Boehner says, "The more education we have for our members, the better we're going to be able to facilitate dealing with a very thorny issue."

California's two Democratic Senators got into the act, sending a "deal colleague" letter to all 53 House members, asking for their support for immigration reform, saying it's the "right thing for California.” The letter says California has "the most at stake" in any immigration reform debate since we're home to nearly one in four of the nation’s undocumented immigrants. “Our constituents and our communities are ready and waiting for reform.”

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