House Democrats are amping up the pressure on Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) to act on immigration reform this year.
Following President Obama's lead, Democratic lawmakers have largely refrained from attacking GOP leaders on the topic, hoping to provide Boehner the space to rally his restive conference around an issue that's splintered Republicans for years.
But after the House Speaker seemed to hit the brakes on immigration reform last week, Democrats aren't staying mum any longer.
"Mr. Speaker, you are not going to be spared. Kids will keep showing up to interrupt your breakfast as long as their parents are facing deportation and their communities are being ripped apart," Gutierrez said on the House floor. "You thought the Super Bowl was a blowout? Wait until November 2016 if immigration reform is still hanging out there."
Rep. Xavier Becerra (Calif.), head of the House Democratic Caucus, issued a similar note of caution.
"There are folks who are very passionate about this, principally the folks who are going to be personally impacted by … watching Congress, specifically House Republicans, do nothing on immigration reform," Becerra said.
"You're going to find a lot of folks — not just immigrants, not just advocates of immigrants — but a lot of Americans, a lot of businessmen and women, a lot of farmers saying to members of Congress who are playing politics with this, 'Get off the dime. Get this done.' "
Late last month, Boehner and GOP leaders seemed poised to move on immigration reform, unveiling a set of "principles" designed both to govern the House debate and ease conservative concerns that Congress would go too soft on illegal immigrants.
The strategy didn't work. Instead, conservatives revolted, largely due to a provision allowing illegal immigrants to remain in the country and work without fear of deportation. Faced with the pressure from his right flank, Boehner on Thursday said he's in no hurry to bring any reform legislation to the floor.
Citing the rollout of the healthcare reform law, Boehner said Republicans simply don't trust Obama to implement an immigration law in good faith.
"We are going to continue to discuss this issue with our members," Boehner said. "But I think the president's gonna have to demonstrate to the American people and to my colleagues that he can be trusted to enforce the law as it is written."
Democrats have rejected that argument, noting that the number of deportations of illegal immigrants has spiked under the Obama administration.
House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) on Tuesday characterized the Republicans' distrust argument as "phony."
"Trust is phony because this administration has seen less illegal immigrants come into the country and has deported more than the previous administration," Hoyer said. "So in terms of trust and in terms of following the law as it relates to immigration, this administration has done so, many of us believe with tragic results in terms of separation of families."
Still, Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) floated a proposal over the weekend designed to alleviate the GOP's trust concerns by delaying the implementation of any immigration overhaul until Obama has left the White House — a proposal House GOP leaders were quick to reject nonetheless.
"It's kind of like the old saying [from Rep. Nancy] Pelosi: 'Pass it, and we'll find out what's in it later,'" said House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), referring to Pelosi's notorious comment during the ObamaCare debate.
Democrats counter that Schumer simply called the GOP's bluff, charging that Republican leaders want to ditch the issue in order to avoid highlighting party divisions in an election year.
"Comprehensive immigration reform shows the Republican Party is a deeply divided party whose leaders have great difficulty … finding followers, and who are out of synch with the American people," Hoyer said.