In one of most detailed reports to date on the status of immigration reform in the Republican-controlled House, POLITICO reports on January 23 that votes are expected on four bills by the end of the summer, including one that would give unauthorized workers legal status. See Immigration back on GOP agenda, by Jake Sherman and Anna Palmer.

POLITICO writes:

"And though none of the bills is likely to offer a path to full citizenship, the fact that Republicans are preparing to take on immigration at all is a sign the party is coming to grips with a political reality: if they want to win elections in the long run, they'll have to face the issue."

How much progress on immigration reform does this actually indicate?

POLITICO writes about Paul Ryan, who appears to be an increasingly important player in the immigration reform effort, as follows:

"Rep. Paul Ryan, (R-Wis.), speaking to local chambers of commerce in San Antonio Thursday, peeled back the curtain on the plans, saying Republicans must help illegal immigrants 'come out of the shadows and reintegrate into society'. That would include requiring immigrants to learn English, civics, pay taxes, and pay a fine - a process that is sure to be decried by opponents as amnesty."

This sounds remarkably like the centerpiece of the Senate bill, S. 744, which the House Republicans pronounced DOA as soon as it reached that chamber and have steadfastly refused to go to conference on.

However, there are a few questions: first, is late summer, just before the November election, a likely time to pass any kind of controversial legislation? Second. what about poison pills? Here is one, according to POLITICO:

"Also, the party is now crafting language that would seek to force President Obama to enforce the totality of any law passed...

Ryan said Republicans 'have to find a way to write these laws that they are actually enforced.'"

"'That's very, very, important to us', said Ryan, who is helping craft leadership's immigration strategy."

Translation: deporting more people by tying the president's hands to give anyone administrative relief from deportation is very, very important to the Republican leadership.

POLITICO continues, optimistically:

"The remarkable transformation from hesitance and caution to these careful and quite beltway maneuvers is another example of establishment Republicans trying to take back the party - and not reflexively bow to their conservative flanks, which have vocally opposed moving forward."

And, less optimistically, the same article also states:

"None of this guarantees that an immigration overhaul will happen - in fact most top Republican aides contend that this is all a show, and the fits and starts will simply help prepare the party and its lawmakers for 2015, when dealing with immigration could be easier."

The fact that the House Republican leaders appear to be talking seriously about immigration reform, rather than letting it die through sheer neglect, is certainly an encouraging sign.

But talk is not enough. Immigration reform supporters need to watch very carefully what the House Republicans actually do - and to be on guard lest the House GOP comes out with a bill so full of enforcement poison pills that it would be worse than no reform at all.


Roger Algase, an attorney and a graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Law School, has been practicing immigration law in New York City for more than 30 years.

He has helped many capable and hard-working professionals with H-1B, extraordinary ability and Labor Certification cases, among others, to develop strategies leading to successful results. He also represents same sex and opposite sex married couples in green card applications,

Roger Algase has made it possible for immigrants from many parts of the world to achieve their goals, develop their careers and build a firm foundation for their lives in America. His email address is