This post has been updated.
Former House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL) on Wednesday said that his Republican colleagues should pass an immigration bill that would give undocumented immigrants legal status in the United States.
“Why alienate a large voting bloc of American people?” he asked in an interview with the Wall Street Journal, explaining that immigration reform would be politically beneficial to the Republican Party.
Hastert said that legal status for the 11.5 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S. and increased border security are crucial to immigration reform.
“We need to give these people legal status,” he said. “They live here. They work here. They raise families here. We need to recognize that they’re here.”
Hastert did not bring a Senate-passed immigration bill to the floor of the House as Speaker in 2006 because he did not have the backing of his conference, even though he indicated he was willing to compromise on the measure. House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) faces a similar dilemma.
“It was pretty obvious at that point that it (the legislation) didn’t have the votes to move it out, especially in the Judiciary Committee,” Hastert said about House inaction on the 2006 bill. “It was pretty well stacked with people who weren’t willing to move.”
Though Hastert called for immigration reform, he declined to give Boehner advice.
“I’m not telling him how to run the House,’ he said. “He knows his members.”