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June 19th, 2013
07:57 PM ET

Castro: GOP border security demands on immigration bill are 'not realistic'

Immigration reform is contentious.

It has created new friction between the White House and Congress, between the House and Senate, and between Republicans and Democrats.

The bill in the Senate is moving forward slowly with time running short and no outcome in sight. Action in the House is even more uncertain, if that’s possible.

Americans, meanwhile, want tighter borders, according to the latest CNN/ORC poll, which found 62% of those surveyed think border security should be the main focus of immigration reform. Just 36% thought a path to citizenship should be the focus.

Democratic Rep. Joaquin Castro of Texas met with the House immigration group, the “Gang of Seven,” on Wednesday morning and in the afternoon, he met with House Speaker John Boehner, who this week sounded dire warning about the bill.

"I don't see any way of bringing an immigration bill to the floor that doesn't have a majority support of Republicans," Boehner said. "I frankly think the Senate bill is weak on border security, I think the internal enforcement mechanisms are weak, and the triggers are almost laughable."

"There's no question that he's in a tough spot with his caucus,"

Castro told CNN there is “no question” Boehner is in a tough spot with fellow Republicans.

"But I think in the end, we'll end up passing comprehensive immigration reform in 2013," he said.

The immigration bill could reduce deficits by $175 billion over the first 10 years and by at least $700 billion in the second decade, according to an analysis released Tuesday by the Congressional Budget Office.

But the nonpartisan organization also highlighted border security issues in the report, which stated that the "CBO estimates that, under the bill, the net annual flow of unauthorized residents would decrease by about 25 percent relative to what would occur under current law."

"We have less border crossings with Mexico than we've had really in the last four decades or so," said Castro. "We've got more resources committed to the border right now than at any other time in American history."

Republicans who might want to support immigration reform view the bill as a quick fix that might solve problems for the 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States at the moment. But it will not, they say, prevent illegal crossings in the future.

"Some of what they're asking for really is illusory," says Castro. "Some of those triggers if we actually put them in place, for example, we would never move on to the legalization part. They're so subjective."

"We would be here fighting about them for five or six years," said Castro.

One key border security amendment was by Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, the No. 2 GOP leader.

Cornyn's amendment would require the government to stop 90% of illegal border crossings before other reforms related to a pathway for citizenship for undocumented immigrants in the United States would kick in.

"The Cornyn amendment ...  really is a distraction, because it's not realistic," said Castro.

Castro said he hopes Boehner will not invoke the so-called Hastert rule, created by former House Speaker Dennis Hastert, who vowed he would not bring any legislation to the House floor for a vote unless it had the support from a majority of House Republicans.

"On the big votes this year, on Sandy relief, on Violence Against Women Act, the debt ceiling limit extension, the speaker didn't invoke the Hastert rule, so I hope that he stays consistent on the issue of immigration," said Castro.

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