Sweeping immigration reform is dead, but it may still go through Congress in bits and pieces.
The Senate passed a comprehensive reform bill in June with bipartisan support, but House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, all but declared it dead earlier this month, saying, "We have no intention of ever going to conference on the Senate bill."
Since then, Boehner has said that he wants to deal with reform "step by step," and President Barack Obama said this week that he is willing to take a piecemeal approach. Regardless, if anything's to get done on immigration, it will almost certainly be on a much smaller scale than the 1,300-page law the Senate proposed.
"I think it has to be done in a piecemeal manner," said Greg Berk, an immigration attorney and partner at Carothers DiSante & Freudenberger.
"The White House and Democrats want a comprehensive solution for the 11 million undocumented workers and a path to citizenship," he said. "But Republicans don't favor an automatic path and are focused more on enforcement."
As late as Wednesday, the president seemed to be on board with a slower path, telling reporters that he would accept a piecemeal approach—as long as Congress passed all the pieces.
Berk says the two sides agree on one of the components: the E-Verify program, which lets employers check on a worker's eligibility status.
Started in 1997, the program is not mandatory now except for companies with federal contracts and is used only to check new hires.
Berk suggested that E-Verify be required for all companies—a step that both Democrats and Republicans support—and for all workers.
"This could be done in a couple of weeks if the Senate agreed to set aside a comprehensive approach for now," he said. "E-Verify is the centerpiece of any immigration reform, and without it we can never get a handle on illegal immigration."