The Senate bill has, in the eyes of some conservatives, also tarnished the reputation of Republican Sen. Marco Rubio, who helped draft it.
But during the August recess, Orlando Republican Rep. Dan Webster announced limited support for a citizenship path as has Illinois Republican Aaron Schock. House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy has expressed some support for an earned path to legal residency — but not citizenship — for illegal immigrants.
A majority of Republicans still appear to oppose comprehensive immigration reform in the House.
“The dribs and drabs of support — it doesn’t impress me as significant,” said Mark Krikorian, a leading conservative immigration-reform critic with the Center for Immigration Studies.
“The proponents like to trot out kids who were brought here when they were two weeks old, but what they don’t say is how many more came when they were much older,” he said.
Krikorian said the status of immigration reform in Congress is “still very fluid.”
Indeed, the House is working on a series of bills instead of one big bill. But the bills could be combined with the Senate bill in a conference committee and go to the House floor where a handful of Republicans could join Democrats and vote it out.
Speaker John Boehner has said he doesn’t want a vote on a bill that a majority of Republicans don’t support.
But it still could happen if all House Democrats can get 18 Republicans to unite behind a bill and file what’s known as a “discharge petition” to bring pending legislation directly to the floor.
That’s unlikely to happen with the Senate bill, but Miami’s Diaz-Balart is working with a bipartisan group on a more conservative House version that could make it to the floor.
In pitching conservatives on immigration reform, proponents focus on the “three Bs:” Bibles, badges and business. That is, they concentrate on making moral, law-enforcement and economic arguments.
Southerland, a businessman before he was elected, is open to all three concepts.
“I am open to finding what I believe is morally the right thing,” Southerland said. “No law-abiding person should live in the shadows.”