CREDIT: Bill Clark/Roll Call
House Judiciary Chair Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) stirred up questions about the future of immigration reform when he said on Monday that he would not support citizenship even for young undocumented immigrants who came to this country as children. But Goodlatte may be softening his position. An aide told ThinkProgress Wednesday night that Goodlatte “remains open” about the final legal status of DREAMers and their parents. The aide wrote in an email:
As [Goodlatte] has said before he is interested in considering legislation that provides a legal status to those who were brought illegally to the U.S. as children by their parents and he remains open about final status for these individuals but enforcement will have to be first.
As the top Republican on a committee that will draft an immigration bill, Goodlatte’s opposition on citizenship puts him at odds with Republican leadership, almost two dozen House Republicans, and a majority of Republican primary voters.
Goodlatte told constituents at a town hall and again with the conservative talk show host Hugh Hewitt that he is against a “special path” for undocumented youths, or so-called DREAMers. He emphasized the need for piecemeal “enforcement first” border security bills to be hashed over when House Republicans come back from the August recess. On the Hugh Hewitt Show, Goodlatte said:
In my opinion if you, after you have the borders secure and these enforcement mechanisms in place. If you were to do something, I would start first of all with children who were brought here illegally by their parents. They’ve grown up here. They’ve been educated here. They are ready to face the world and they have no documents. I think there’s a more compelling argument to be made for them. But, even for them, I would say that they get a legal status in the United States and not a pathway to citizenship that is created especially for them. In other words, they get that legal status if they have an employer who says I’ve got a job which I can’t find a U.S. citizen and I want to petition for them, ah, they can do that, but I wouldn’t give them the pathway to a Green Card and ultimately citizenship based simply on their entering the country illegally.
Goodlatte’s current position to grant legal status, but not citizenship to DREAMers, is one that goes against the basic bipartisan compromise for immigration reform that was in place since the trade-off for the Senate immigration bill had been border militarization for an eventual pathway to citizenship.
Goodlatte’s opposition to citizenship also goes against the opinions of Republican leaders House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA), who support citizenship for DREAMers out of “decency” and “compassion.” At the time, Boehner appeared alongside Cantor who said, “These, in many instances, are kids without a country if we don’t allow them to be full citizens of our country…It is not only a system–a issue of fairness, as the speaker said, it’s an issue of decency, of compassion.” However, like Goodlatte, the third highest ranking member of the House, Majority Whip McCarthy has only come out in favor of legal status, but stopped short of supporting citizenship.
Meanwhile, some House Republicans have taken the August recess to throw their support behind an earned pathway to citizenship not just for DREAMers but for all of the 11 million undocumented immigrants already in the United States. Since the beginning of the August recess, at least four House Republicans have supported citizenship. Rep. Tom Reed (R-NY) specifically supports citizenship for DREAMers. In all, 23 House Republicans have so far come out in support of an earned pathway to citizenship.
According to several recent polls, a majority of Republican primary voters support the Senate immigration bill that provides eventual citizenship to millions of undocumented immigrants. Still, Goodlatte’s position squarely falls in line with that of the Republican National Committee (RNC) and many rank House Republicans. Democrats, meanwhile, have said they will not accept any bill that does not include a path to citizenship.
This post was updated to reflect the comments of a House Judiciary aide who said in an email Wednesday night that Goodlatte remains “open about final status for these individuals.” The original post reported Goodlatte’s definitive opposition to citizenship. HT: Erica Werner