They say one is the loneliest number.
But Democratic Rep. John Barrow of Georgia said he’s not standing on his own on the immigration bill he introduced Thursday.
“I don’t know how alone I’m gonna be in the House,” he told reporters during a press conference in front of the Capitol. “I know this: I’m not alone back home on this issue.”
The Keeping the Promise of IRCA Act—a reference to the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act that Barrow said failed to uphold the promise of border security—is the first and only piece of immigration legislation released so far in response to the Senate’s massive immigration reform bill, which was just voted out of the Judiciary Committee Tuesday after nearly two weeks of markups.
With the House’s bipartisan “Gang of Eight” expected to release its own immigration legislation shortly, Barrow’s move reads largely symbolic. Barrow is not a member of the Gang, nor has he introduced any immigration-related legislation during his eight years in office. He will begin building bipartisan support for the bill once the House is back from Memorial Day recess, but the odds are against any minority member who tries to tackle such a controversial issue.
Barrow sounded confident that the legislation he drafted will stand up to his colleagues’ forthcoming bill, saying it too closely mirrors the Senate’s version. He stated that he does not support the bill.
“It’s not taking us where we need to go,” he said.
He said his bill will secure the borders and limit or eliminate unregulated entrances into the country; secure jobs with mandatory E-Verify; and create measurable tools and reports for Congress to determine whether or not they deem the border secure. In contrast to the Senate bill, amnesty will not be granted to undocumented immigrants until Congress has determined that the border is secure.
Whether or not he gets fellow House members on board, the Blue Dog Democrat has at least one ally in his corner.
Chris Crane, president of the National Immigration and Customs Enforcement Council, said Barrow’s words were “music to my ears.”
Crane, who joined Barrow in announcing the legislation, said ICE has been largely excluded from the Senate bill. Barrow’s bill would put a larger focus on border metrics and reports from the field on the state of the U.S.-Mexico border.
“It’s critical to hear what the boots on the ground have to say,” he said. “For some reason, we can’t get folks up here in Washington, DC, to listen to us.”
Barrow could be taking a risk by swimming upstream in a House full of Republicans, but a representative for the congressman said the bill should attract other members—Republican and Democrat alike—who may not support the bipartisan group’s efforts and feel they have nowhere else to go.
So Barrow forges ahead. And maybe once Congress comes back from recess, he won’t be so lonely after all.
Nadya Faulx, Medill News Service