The broad immigration-reform principles unveiled by House Republicans Thursday "raise more questions than answers," House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) charged.
Pelosi said the Democrats "welcome" the gesture by GOP leaders who have long-resisted legislation to reform an immigration system all sides consider broken. But the one-page document of vague standards, she added, leaves reform supporters hungry for more details.
Released Thursday during the GOP conference in Maryland, the Republican's much-anticipated guidelines are a delicate attempt to appease both conservatives in the conference who are wary of moving any legislation that grants special rights to illegal immigrants and national GOP leaders who worry that a failure to do so will doom the party's presidential chances in 2016 and beyond.
The guidelines focus heavily on border security and the enforcement of existing laws, but also permit undocumented immigrants to remain in the country and work without fear of deportation. The standards would allow illegal immigrants brought to the country as children to become U.S. citizens, if they meet certain requirements, but not adults.
Pelosi suggested the devil will be in the details.
"First, what is the standard for DREAMers to become citizens of our country?," she asked. "Next, what is required for immigrants to live legally in our nation, and will it result in full citizenship? Finally, will Republicans’ enforcement triggers create more barriers instead of removing obstacles to comprehensive reform?"
The issue of citizenship is likely to be the thorniest of the debate. Pelosi warned Wednesday that Democrats will reject any reform package that doesn't create a pathway to citizenship for all qualified illegal immigrants – adults and children alike.
"To talk about legalization is to say that America is not the country we think we are," she added. "They wouldn't even be second-class citizens, because they wouldn't be citizens. They'd be second-class residents of our country.
"I just can't subscribe to that, and that's not where our caucus is."
House Speaker John BoehnerJohn BoehnerBoehner endorses DeVos for Education secretary Trump, House GOP could clash over 'Buy America' Lobbying World MORE (R-Ohio) responded Thursday with a warning of his own.
"If Democrats insist on that [citizenship], then we are not going to get anywhere this year,” he is said to have told Republicans as he unveiled the principles.
That disagreement alone could prevent legislation from ever reaching President Obama's desk. Still, Democratic leaders are treading cautiously, as if expecting Boehner and the Republicans to ultimately give ground on the citizenship question.
House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said he's "encouraged" by the guidelines, which he deemed progress.
"Now it is time for the House to take up reform that will enable 11 million undocumented immigrants to emerge from the shadows and open a path to citizenship for those who want to participate in building our nation and its economy," Hoyer said in a statement.