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Boehner breaks with party to pitch immigration reform

Published: Tuesday, Feb. 4 2014 12:30 p.m. MST

House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio smiles as walks to a strategy meeting with fellow Republicans before speaking to reporters about the Keystone XL Pipeline and other issues, Tuesday, Feb. 4, 2014, on Capitol Hill in Washington

J. Scott Applewhite, Associated Press

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The announcement came at a Maryland Republican retreat late last week: Republican Speaker of the House John Boehner's immigration proposal would provide a path to citizenship for the children of 11.7 million illegal immigrants. It does not, however, extend to their parents, says an officially issued outline.

The surprising move would put Boehner in the minority in his party, according to one participant at the private meeting, those who say it’s a bad idea to go ahead with immigration reform outnumbered those who favor moving forward by 3 to 1, according to The Christian Science Monitor.

Boehner walks a fine line, especially with strong-willed tea party members. He's not known for bucking the will of the group, but some wonder if fallout from the partial government shutdown last fall has been instructive. Boehner warned his colleagues against trying to defund President Barack Obama's Affordable Care Act, but didn't prevent their brinkmanship.

In the wake of some Americans' anger over the shutdown debacle, the Republican-controlled house has since approved a spending bill and a farm bill despite conservative backlash.

"The school of hard knocks is a great educator," John Pitney, a congressional expert and political scientist at Clarement McKenna College told The Christian Science Monitor.

Boehner may be breaking with the will of party conservatives to the long-term benefit of the GOP, which has steadily lost latino voters.

“This problem’s been around for at least the last 15 years. It’s been turned into a political football. I think it’s unfair,” said Boehner. “I think it’s time to deal with it. But how we deal with it is going to be critically important.”

Some tea-partyers have already responded with resistance: The Powerline blog called the proposal a "Death Warrant for Conservatism," and Heritage Action's Dan Holler told The Daily Beast’s Patricia Murphy the proposal amounted to “a full-throated embrace of amnesty.”

Meanwhile, the move has drawn praise from immigration reform advocates, and some house democrats. Some have even speculated that immigration reform would be Boehner's legacy.

"These changes would go a long way toward fixing a system that is not only impractical, costly, and unfair, it also tears families apart at record pace," responded the Campaign for an Accountable, Moral and Balanced Immigration Overhaul, an advocacy group that includes the ACLU.

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