While the Senate immigration reform bill collects dust, House Republicans remain unmoved in their stance against a path to citizenship for all illegal immigrants. But they're far more open to such a path for the children of illegals. At a hearing yesterday, they reiterated their intent – which isn’t written or outlined – to create their own immigration legislation.
In light of the recent hearings, it appears the House immigration plan might be a step-by-step process of several bills. But it's also possible that the House is simply taking its time in creating legislation. In an interview with TAS, Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) said that he could imagine a far-reaching bill that addresses border security and some form of citizenship for children.
“In theory that can be done, but all of that is done at a pay grade above mine,” Gowdy said. “That’s a leadership question. I’m just lucky to run the hearing.”
The hearing of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security was not on the Goodlatte/Cantor bill – unofficially called the KIDS Act – but instead constituted an informal discussion addressing the idea of legalizing the children of illegal immigrants.
Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, who recently announced he and Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) have plans to co-author a bill that would legalize children, was slightly ambiguous in his opening statement.
“[The children of illegal immigrants] had no input into their parents' decision to bring the family to U.S. illegally,” Goodlatte said. “And many of them know no other home than the United States, having grown up in America since they were toddlers.”
But he made it clear that he doesn’t support legalization of adult immigrants, an idea he flirted with several weeks ago.
“I do not believe that parents who made the decision to illegally enter the U.S. while forcing their children to join them should be afforded the same treatment as these kids,” Goodlatte said.
The witnesses sparked debate – from breaking up families to theological musings – among the representatives. Many of the Republicans questioned the ethics of pardoning children’s parents who broke the law by entering illegally, while many Democrats questioned the ethics of deporting children’s parents.
Rep. Ted Poe (R-Texas) said that holding children accountable for breaking immigration law is wrong.
“I think it’s time we bring the law up to the standard of all laws in the United States, that a child cannot form the intent to commit an act that is illegal in the United States,” Poe said. “So therefore, we should look at children brought here by their parents, 10 and under or whatever age we use, as not being able to have illegal status because they did not consent to the act.”
The hearing made it clear that House Republicans are more than willing to provide a path to citizenship (or at least legalization) for children of illegal immigrants. This thought is also consistent with House Republican leadership. Speaker John Boehner even offered his support at a July 17 press conference, saying it is “about basic fairness.”
Perhaps then the stumbling block continues to be border security – arguably the major problem Republicans had with the Senate’s immigration bill. The House does, however, have a border security bill which made it out of the Committee on Homeland Security several months ago. At another hearing yesterday, Rep. Candice Miller (R-Mich.), chairman of the Border and Maritime Security Subcommittee, and ranking member Sheila Jackson Lee (R-Texas) both expressed concern over the Senate’s border security while praising the bipartisan nature and quality of the House bill.
“Through our bill, the national labs and border stakeholders will be able to offer needed expertise, so that what the Department of Homeland Security produces measures border security,” Miller said.
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