Rep. Bob Goodlatte / Pat Jarrett
House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., has seen immigration proposals by President Obama and a bipartisan group of senators that include a pathway to citizenship for the country's 11 million illegal immigrants, and he has a simple response: Not so fast.
Goodlatte, who has labeled past efforts as "amnesty" and has earned a career A+ grade from NumbersUSA, a group that wants lower levels of immigration, said there are a lot of possibilities between deporting all the country's illegal immigrants and granting them all citizenship.
"When (Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid) says there has to be a path to citizenship, I wonder whether he's serious about doing immigration reform," said Goodlatte, whose committee will handle any immigration proposals. "You have to come at this with a willingness to look at all the options and find the common ground."
Goodlatte will use the first hearing in his committee Tuesday to provide Immigration 101 to members who have not been involved in the wide array of issues facing Congress on the topic. He said they will hold several such hearings in his full committee, and his immigration subcommittee headed by Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., as well as individual briefings for representatives and their staff.
"Most members of Congress do not have a lot of experience with immigration law," Goodlatte said. "We think there are a lot of members who want and need to learn a lot more about the issue."
The hearing comes a week after a group of senators -- four Republicans and four Democrats -- outlined their framework for a comprehensive immigration bill and Obama gave a speech in Las Vegas outlining his plans.
The Senate proposal creates a path to citizenship for the 11 million illegal immigrants living in the U.S., changes the legal immigration system to allow more low- and high-skilled foreigners access to visas, creates a system so employers can easily check the immigration status of prospective employees and further secures the nation's borders.
If passed, all illegal immigrants who pass a criminal background check would be allowed to live and work in the country in a provisionary status. After Congress is assured that the border has been controlled, then those immigrants could file for a green card after they've paid fines and back taxes and learned English and civics, among other requirements.
Goodlatte said the idea of tying any possibility of citizenship to a secure border is a "worthwhile idea" that needs to be examined closely.
"When we did this in 1986, it clearly was totally ineffective," Goodlattte said of a 1986 immigration law that legalized 3 million illegal immigrants but did not secure the border. "What the Senate is working on, we'll be interested in looking at."
In the current Senate plan, most illegal immigrants would have to wait for all pending green card applications to be processed before they could get their green cards. But those who were brought to the country as children, who earn advanced degrees from American universities and work in the agricultural field will have a different, faster process.
Goodlatte said the push for legalization is "going to be a difficult thing" for him to accept. "It all depends on the conditions that are imposed," he said.
And while he promised a full airing of the Senate plan, Goodlatte said he was ready and willing to look at smaller bills that tackle individual pieces of the immigration system if he doesn't feel a wide consensus for a comprehensive plan forming.
"If we can't find it, then we're going to do as much as we can in the House," he said.
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Read the original story: Goodlatte not sold on Senate immigration plan