House Speaker John Boehner said Thursday it would be difficult for Congress to tackle a bill to let young illegal immigrants remain in the United States
At his weekly news conference, Boehner said he had spoken to the bill's sponsor, Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio. But Boehner indicated that politics would make it hard for lawmakers to try to resolve the divisive issue in this election year.
"I found it of interest, but the problem with this issue is you're operating in a very hostile political environment. And to deal with a very difficult issue like this, I think it would be difficult at best," Boehner, R-Ohio, said.
Rubio, the son of Cuban immigrants, is crafting a bill that would permit young illegal immigrants who came to the U.S. with their parents to apply for non-immigrant visas. They would be allowed to stay to study or work and obtain a driver's license but would not be able to vote. They could apply for residency later, but they would not have a special path to citizenship.
It counters the Democratic-backed DREAM Act that grants a path to citizenship to young illegal immigrations who attend college or serve in the military.
Some Republicans have been optimistic about the effort by Rubio, who often is mentioned as a potential vice presidential pick. They see it as a political opening with Hispanic voters who have heavily favored President Barack Obama and Democrats in past elections. A recent Pew Research Center survey showed Obama with a commanding 67 percent to 27 percent advantage over likely Republican nominee Mitt Romney with Hispanics.
Boehner's comment cools the GOP excitement but reflects the concern of several rank-and-file GOP House conservatives, who have challenged the idea of allowing illegal immigrants to remain in the United States.