BOISE, Idaho (AP) -- Members of Idaho's congressional delegation say they are encouraged and hopeful that progress can be made this year on reforming the nation's immigration system.
"This is the year to do something," Rep. Raul Labrador told constituents at a town hall meeting in Meridian last week. "I'm actually very optimistic."
But the Idaho Statesman reports (http://bit.ly/UnKn5X) that Labrador and his colleagues in the House and Senate have some expectations for any legislation dealing the millions people now living in the country illegally and those bound to cross into America in the future.
Labrador, a lawyer who once handled immigration cases is taking a lead role in shaping future immigration policy, told constituents he's not a supporter of giving immigrants a pathway to citizenship.
"We have to do something about these 12 million people who are here," said Labrador, who immediately acknowledged the obvious signs of discomfort and disagreement coming from the audience. "I'm seeing some of you saying, 'No, no, no,' but the cost to our society to just kick 12 million people out is something that we're not going to be able to stand."
Labrador and his colleagues agree the current system broken and denies employers the willing workers needed to fill low-wage jobs in agriculture and manual labor to the highly paid engineers sought by companies like Micron Technologies.
"The thing cries out for a solution," said Sen. Jim Risch, adding business leaders constantly prod about ways to change the dynamics on immigration. "It would do very, very good things for the American economy if you could get a system in place where people could come here to work."
One reason driving the optimism is a framework for legislation that emerged last week and was developed by a bipartisan group of senators. Last week, President Obama unveiled his own ideas for reform in a speech in Las Vegas.
Sen. Mike Crapo, the senior Republican in the delegation, said the appeal of the proposals now being considered has to do with the position on amnesty, the issue that has caused disagreement and stalemate in the past.
"I think the 'Gang of Eight' has significantly tightened down on the issue of amnesty," Crapo said. "The question will come down to whether there is enough compromise in this middle ground of allowing them to have a pathway to citizenship or permanent residency as a result of illegal entry. The potential is there, but there will still be huge battles over that."
Crapo added that his position on amnesty is simple: A person who has entered the country illegally should not gain a benefit toward either permanent residency or citizenship.
Rep. Mike Simpson said he's willing to defer to Labrador on immigration developments emerging in the House. Said Simpson spokeswoman, Nikki Watts:
"Immigration reform is an important issue facing our nation, but it is too early to determine what will be involved in the legislation that will come before the House for Congressman Simpson to consider," his spokeswoman Nikki Watts said. "He is anxious to see what Congressman Labrador and his other colleagues put together so he can evaluate it."
Information from: Idaho Statesman, http://www.idahostatesman.com
Copyright 2013 The AP.