During a GOP Conference Hispanic Heritage Month event, House Judiciary Chairman Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) drew the line at granting an earned pathway to citizenship for undocumented youths who were brought to the United States illegally by their parents. He also said he would support providing legal status for adult immigrants, who could then try for citizenship under existing law.
The moderator Alfonso Aguilar, Executive Director of the Latino Partnership for Conservative Principles said in a released statement:
Moreover, [Goodlatte] clarified that Republicans in the House are not against closing the door to citizenship to those who legalize, as some in the left irresponsibly allege. What they oppose is a special path to citizenship. According to the Republican plan, those who legalize could choose to become citizens but they would have to follow the process established under current law.
Goodlatte, who holds a key role as chair of the House Judiciary Committee that vets immigration bills, pledged action on reform said work is continuing behind the scenes, countering concern that House Republicans might stall on action at least through the end of the year.
Goodlatte remains resistant to the Senate bill passed earlier this year, saying, “We have objections to the Senate bill, but we don’t say we want to kill the Senate bill.” In contrast to the Senate’s pathway to citizenship for all 11 million undocumented immigrants, Goodlatte is now supporting an “earned” pathway for youths brought here by their parents, meaning they could receive legal status and be eligible for citizenship through education, the military, or other mechanisms. The details of what would constitute “earned” citizenship are not clear.
Adults would be given legal status, which would enable some to pursue citizenship, but Goodlatte conceded it would not lead to citizenship for many of the 11 million undocumenteds. He nonetheless called his proposal a “major solution to the problem if you were able to be legally present in the United States, able to work anywhere you wanted, able to own your own business, able to pay your taxes, travel to your home country and back or any other country you wanted to travel to.”
There are three limited ways that immigrants can gain citizenship under current law. Immigrants can be sponsored by a family member, a U.S. citizen spouse, or through an employer.
Currently, there are only 88,000 annual visas available for permanent residents who want to apply for green cards for their spouses and children. And work visas are also capped at numbers that quickly fill up. In 2013, the cap of 65,000 high-skilled work visas was reached in less than a week. Unscrupulous employers could also hold work visas as a bargaining chip in order to exploit employees for cheaper labor and longer hours.
Goodlatte has previously stated that he was open to the “final status” of DREAMers, or undocumented youths who were brought to the country as children by their parents, but he has not given a clear indication with how he would approach granting citizenship to other undocumented immigrants.
Other House members present included Conference Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), Republican Policy Committee Chairman James Lankford (R-OK), Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL), Rep. Trey Radel (R-FL), Rep. Jeff Denham (R-CA), and Rep. David Valadao (R-CA).
Radel, whose district is 18 percent Latino, said, “For me, there’s every reason to do this.”