WATERLOO, Iowa --- Sen. Tom Harkin says the ball on immigration reform is in House Speaker John Boehner's court and will likely stay there in the coming weeks.
Immigration reform has been on hold since the Senate passed a bill that hasn't yet been taken up by the House of Representatives. The Iowa Catholic bishops group released a statement Wednesday urging lawmakers to take up the issue. In it, the group voiced its support for the pathway to citizenship outlined in the Senate's legislation.
"We believe that those already here, for the sake of family unity and being humane, should receive special consideration that would include eventual citizenship," the statement said.
Harkin, chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, said Republican leaders in the House have an opportunity in taking up the immigration reform bill passed this year by the Senate.
Voting on reform that would grant amnesty to undocumented immigrants would show people that Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, does not speak for the Republican Party, Harkin told The Courier.
King has been rebuked by leaders of his party for statements implying most immigrants are drug mules. Boehner and other leaders have publicly said King's statements were "deeply offensive."
The Senate produced a bill that outlines a pathway to amnesty for an estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants. It also includes measures that would increase border security calling for approximately doubling the number of border patrol agents by 2021 as well as around-the-clock surveillance of the border by unmanned drones.
Harkin said the measure garnered broad, bipartisan support.
Harkin said some Republicans may be facing tough primaries against tea party Republicans, which might be a reason the Republican-controlled House hasn't tackled the issue. Harkin said Boehner needs to stand up to that contingent of his political party.
"(Boehner's) got to start standing up to that tea party outfit, he's just got to," Harkin said.
Harkin said not passing the measure could be a risky political move for Republican House leaders.
"If he doesn't bring this up and he kills immigration reform, in some of those districts, they'll have a hard time," he said, adding it might indicate to some voters people like King do speak for Republicans.
The House is currently on a five-week recess and will reconvene after Labor Day.