Possibly, a strategy on immigration

Democratic congressional aides are considering inviting House Republicans to hold bipartisan town hall meetings on immigration reform in August. The idea would be to offer Republicans an opportunity to show they are serious about addressing immigration problems, even if there are deep differences over how to proceed.

“August is a perfect opportunity for leaders in Washington to come together as Americans, not as Republicans and Democrats, to explain why it is we believe it is time to fix a broken system on a bipartisan basis,” Rep. Xavier Becerra, Calif., a Democratic member of the House “Gang of Seven” negotiators on immigration, told me on Thursday. “Those conversations hopefully will lead to some joint opportunities between Democrats and Republicans, so when we come back, hopefully we can get it done.”

Democrats are hoping to “discuss immigration reform in a bipartisan manner,” Becerra added, and will reach out to Republicans “who are still contemplating what to do.” Already, Rep. Luis Gutierrez, Ill., another Democratic member of the Gang of Seven, has done joint town halls with GOP lawmakers on the issue.

The idea — still in preliminary stages — is that some Democrats would extend invitations to Republicans in neighboring districts for joint town halls. Whether or not the idea pans out, it comes at an interesting moment, as the Washington Examiner reports that House Republicans don’t have a plan for how to discuss immigration reform over the recess, suggesting continuing uncertainty over what tone to strike.

If Democrats do offer joint town halls, Republicans might well decline — something Democrats might then use to illustrate that Republicans don’t want to get serious about addressing immigration reform.

Whether there are joint town halls, proponents of reform will be urging Democratic lawmakers to talk about the issue as much as possible over the recess. The pitch will be that they must keep immigration in the news so that Republican lawmakers face questions from constituents and reporters.

All this throws into even sharper relief Rep. Steve King’s, R-Iowa, now-notorious comparison of young immigrants to drug mules. Republican leaders continue to distance themselves from King’s remarks. But in our interview, Becerra suggested that Democrats might challenge rank-and-file Republican lawmakers directly. Will they engage the issue seriously, or will they pander to hard-right constituents?

“They will have to decide whether they are members of the Steve King Republican Party, or members of the Republican Party that wants to join the American people and get this done,” Becerra said.

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