A House Republican who once advocated deporting undocumented immigrants has now softened his stance. During a town hall event in Holladay, Utah, Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) backed a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants on Wednesday night. He is the 24th House Republican to support citizenship, and also the latest to push for immigration reform because inaction does not work.
At the event, Chaffetz said that he would push for piecemeal legislation, including five bills that focus on border enforcement. He is opposed to the bipartisan Senate immigration bill. The congressman told the local television ABC4 news station reporter, “There should be a pathway to citizenship, not a special pathway, and not no pathway, but there has to be a legal, lawful way to go through this process that works and right now it doesn’t.”
As late as April, Chaffetz was opposed to offering legal status to undocumented immigrants. Then he said that undocumented immigrants were “gaming our system, knowing that they can get here and milk the system for years with no consequences,” even though studies show undocumented and legal immigrants pay more into the system than they are able to take out.
As a freshman congressman, Chaffetz advocated rounding up undocumented immigrants and deporting them. Comedian-satirist Stephen Colbert interviewed him asking, “When did rounding up people you don’t like in your country and putting them in camps get a bad name?” Chaffetz gamely replied, “I want to enforce the law.”
During the August recess, at least five new Republicans have come out in favor of citizenship. But even others who have not explicitly changed their position have softened their rhetoric as they return to their home districts and face their constituents.
In a town hall appearance in his home district Wednesday, Rep. Spencer Bachus (R-AL) made a moral, faith based appeal for reform:
We have a broken immigration system and no matter what you’re proposing on either side, I don’t think there’s a member of Congress that doesn’t say what we have now is totally broken and it’s not in the best interest of the country, the citizens, or the immigrants. It’s bad for everyone.