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Boehner: Democratic Reaction to Arizona Immigration Law a ‘Cynical Ploy’

House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) on Tuesday told members of his Conference that the Democratic reaction to a new Arizona immigration law is a “cynical ploy” to rev up their base voters. He said “no one believes” that comprehensive immigration reform will be taken up before the midterm elections.

Speaking during a closed-door GOP Conference meeting, Boehner told his colleagues that Americans are more concerned about the economy than immigration reform, GOP sources inside the room said.

Arizona’s controversial immigration law, signed by Gov. Jan Brewer (R) last week, requires law enforcement to ask individuals for proof of their immigration status if they have “reasonable suspicion” that the individual is in the country illegally. The new law has fueled tensions on both sides of the immigration reform debate, and some observers have suggested it gives more incentive for Congress to act on the politically toxic issue this year. Even before the law was signed, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said he would move a comprehensive reform measure this year.

Following the Conference, House Republican leaders told reporters that the Arizona law should be respected since the majority of that state’s residents support it.

“The people of Arizona have the right, under the 10th Amendment, to write their laws, and they have,” Boehner said. “It has a 70 percent approval in Arizona and I think we ought to respect the people of Arizona and their right to make their own decisions.”

“I think all Americans understand that we are a country of laws, and the lawlessness that pervades the situation there is unacceptable to all Americans,” Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-Va.) said. “We are also a country of immigrants, all of us came from somewhere and we are a country of and should be about legal immigration.”

Asked about the comparison with Nazi Germany that some opponents of the law have made, Cantor, who is Jewish, said, “That kind of analogy is something that is inappropriate in this discussion.”

Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) told reporters on Tuesday that the law underscored the need for the federal government to address immigration reform and criticized it as “very inconsistent” with “past practices in America”

“We don’t go around asking people for ID cards,” Hoyer said. “I believe that we do need comprehensive immigration reform coupled with strong enforcement at the borders.”

Arizona acted, Hoyer said, at least in part because Congress and the federal government haven’t.

“What the people of Arizona are saying is that feds haven’t done their jobs,” Hoyer said. “I think they’re right. The feds haven’t done their job.”

Hoyer stressed the importance of securing the border both for national security and fiscal reasons but said that effort had to be part of a larger effort at reforming the system comprehensively.

Hoyer acknowledged that there was disagreement within the Democratic Caucus on issues such as a path to citizenship and other aspects of comprehensive reform.

Hoyer said Congressional Hispanic Caucus members understood that Senate action had to come first.

Kathleen Hunter contributed to this report.

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