New prospects in 2014 for an immigration overhaul

By Jim Kuhnhenn

Associated Press

Published: Tuesday, Jan. 7 2014 12:00 a.m. MST

While strong majorities of Hispanics continue to back a pathway to citizenship, a Pew Research Center poll last month found that being able to live and work in the U.S. legally without the threat of deportation was more important to Latinos by 55 percent to 35 percent.

"Is the sticking point going to be we have to have immediate voting privileges for those who came here illegally?," Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, a Republican who voted against the Senate immigration bill, said Sunday on ABC. "If the Democrats are willing to come halfway, I think we can pass something, some meaningful reform that would help the 11 million who are here."

Carney said Tuesday that Obama's views have not changed and that he continues to insist on a comprehensive overhaul that includes a path to citizenship.

Still, that the immigration argument is now over legalization versus citizenship is remarkable enough. A 2005 Republican House immigration bill, instead of legalizing immigrants, would have made them felons if they were not authorized to be in the U.S.

"That's seismic shift in the debate," said Randy Johnson, senior vice president of the pro-overhaul U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Obama, whose support among Latinos has dropped from nearly 80 percent to 55 percent, has been under increasing pressure to use his executive powers to limit deportations. Obama's Homeland Security Department has deported 1.9 million people during the president's nearly five years in office, a number that is predominantly felons, national security risks, serious immigration offenders and recent border crossers. Of the 368,644 immigrants removed last year, 2 out of 3 were at or near the U.S. border.

"As long as we have a failure to achieve immigration reform, combined with the record-breaking level of deportations, there will continue to be great dissatisfaction in the Latino community with the president," said Janet Murguia, the president and CEO of the National Council of La Raza, a leading Latino advocacy group.

A House Republican retreat later this month could help GOP leaders devise a strategy. Some Republicans and Democrats say Boehner could wait until after the filing deadlines for 2014 primary elections, thus protecting some incumbents from tea party or other conservative challenges. That would mean no meaningful votes until after April.

The White House's own strategy has not impressed before. Immigration advocates and Democratic lawmakers say the White House last year mistakenly assumed that the bipartisan Senate bill would create enough momentum to bulldoze its way through the House.

"They completely misunderstood the impact that the Senate bill would have," said Rep. Zoe Lofgren of California, a key Democrat on immigration who sits on the House Judiciary Committee. "To think that that would magically transform the House of Representatives was never in the cards."

Associated Press Director of Polling Jennifer Agiesta and AP News Survey Specialist Dennis Junius contributed to this report

Follow Jim Kuhnhenn on Twitter: http://twitter.com/jkuhnhenn

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