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Boehner Resigning From Congress: Lawmakers, Advocates Call for Immigration Reform Vote

First Posted: Sep 25, 2015 01:50 PM EDT
John Boehner

John Boehner(Photo : Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner, representative for Ohio’s 8th Congressional District, announced his resignation from Congress, and calls for immigration reform have only increased.

On Friday morning, Boehner announced his resignation, and he will step down on Oct. 30. But with the intention to leave Congress, immigrant rights advocates are calling for the speaker to finally act on immigration reform.

In 2013, the Senate passed a comprehensive immigration reform bill, titled "Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act" (S.744), with bipartisan support, including Republican presidential candidates Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Marco Rubio of Florida. The bill, however, was never picked up in the House for a debate or vote. 

"Speaker Boehner has promised to put through something on immigration for a long time, such as when he was approached by activists in his favorite diner years back," said Cesar Vargas, co-director of DRM Action Coalition, an advocacy organization seeking immigration policies without discrimination on one's status or national origin.

"The entire time he was Speaker, however, he has only put forward things like Steve King's (R-IA) bill to defund DACA [Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals] and anti-immigrant legislation. Now that it's time for him to start on his bucket list, we'll be watching to see if he finally follows through. If he does not, it will not bode well for his legacy," said Vargas.

Erika Andiola, fellow co-director of the DRM Action Coalition, said Boehner allowed "crazies" within the House to control the agenda. She said the Ohio congressman has been the "weakest" speaker -- ever.

"While part of this is because of shifting funding patterns and members of Congress becoming more loyal to funders than Party, part of this is because he has not been willing to allow a vote that would embarrass the GOP by exposing how much of a fractured party Republicans have become on immigration: Whether it's Steve King or Donald Trump, there is always someone lined up to take a cheap shot on the issue for short-term gain, even if they can't win if it were put to a vote," Andiola said in a statement.

The DRM Action Coalition's statement echoes the sentiment shared by Congressional Hispanic Caucus chairwoman and Rep. Linda Sanchez, D-Calif., who called on Boehner to act on comprehensive immigration reform.

"Yesterday we heard from Pope Francis a message of compassion and a call for a renewal of cooperation. My hope is that in the final month of Speaker Boehner's term in Congress we can work together to pass comprehensive immigration reform. ... As chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, I stand ready to work with Speaker Boehner in this spirit of cooperation. The American people are looking to us to get to work," Sanchez said.

In separate statements, Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill., also a member of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, and Sanchez, thanked Boehner for his years of service. Gutierrez acknowledged he and the Ohio congressman have not agreed on many issues but recognized Boehner "has been in a very difficult position for years."

"What his Caucus wants and what the Speaker and the country want are almost always in conflict. It cannot be easy for a decent man to be the head of what is becoming the New Know-Nothing Party of anti-immigrant policies and intolerance," Gutierrez said.

Gutierrez commented about the opportunity the House had to pass the Senate's comprehensive immigration reform legislation. He noted a small group of House Republicans were able to hold against the bill's passage. Gutierrez said there were sufficient votes to pass S.744 during the 113th Congress, but Boehner's speakership was reportedly threatened.

"With Speaker Boehner stepping down and his job no longer on the line, there is no reason not to have a vote," Gutierrez said. "He should call a vote on immigration reform, and I think in my heart that Speaker Boehner would stand with us, with his country, and with the immigrant and Latino community."

The Illinois congressman also commended Boehner's achievement to have Pope Francis speak from the House of Representatives on Thursday morning. He said Boehner has an opportunity to answer the pontiff's message to "rise above racism and xenophobia."

The National Immigration Law Center (NILC) also stated Boehner's resignation is an effect of the immigration debate. NILC Executive Director Marielena Hincapié said Boehner's resignation is "the culmination of the strife within his party over how to be less caring of immigrants, of women, working families, of the poor, and of those most in need." Hincapié said the immigrants' rights community is watching the legislative process, especially in the weeks leading up to Oct. 30.

Hincapié noted his resignation comes as ongoing negotiations to fund the government continues. She added, "Those bills are where attacks against immigrants and the poor are often slipped in. We urge the next Speaker to be prepared to legislate and not continue to allow Congress and the nation to be held hostage by a small minority of extreme conservatives that are out of touch with what is in the country's best interests."

Republican National Committee (RNC) Chairman Reince Priebus thanked Boehner for his service for the Republican Party and constituents.

"I want to thank Speaker Boehner for his efforts to make our party, the state of Ohio, and our nation stronger. He has been a tireless advocate for conservative principles who has raised millions to elect and reelect Republicans to the House of Representatives. Our party owes him a great debt, and I wish him and Debbie the best as he continues to make contributions to the Republican Party and America," the RNC chairman said.

As Latin Post reported, in a prepared statement, Boehner said he steps down feeling proud about his accomplishments and in advancing conservative reforms. He explained his intention was to only serve as speaker until late last year but stayed on to "provide continuity" for the Republican caucus in the House.

"It is my view, however, that prolonged leadership turmoil would do irreparable damage to the institution. To that end, I will resign the Speakership and my seat in Congress on October 30," said Boehner. 

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For the latest updates, follow Latin Post's Politics Editor Michael Oleaga on Twitter: @EditorMikeO or contact via email: m.oleaga@latinpost.com.

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