The author of the House of Representatives bill to clamp down on illegal immigration and address the fate of people brought to the U.S. illegally as children says there is no reason for lawmakers to rush immigration legislation and says his goal is to make sure the nation never faces an illegal immigration crisis again.
Senate Democrats tried to attach immigration legislation to efforts to keep the government funded past January 19. Three days later, they agreed to fund the government in exchange for a promise that an immigration debate would begin prior to the next funding deadline of Feb. 8.
At issue is the fate of roughly 700,000 people who were brought to the U.S. illegally as children. President Obama granted legal status for anyone who enrolled in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, through executive action in 2012. In September, President Trump announced the executive DACA program would end in March 2018.
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., is author of the Securing America’s Future Act. He says despite some lawmakers waving frantically at the calendar, Congress does not need to race to get legislation done.
“We should take our time and not feel we’re compelled to do anything by any deadline. There is no deadline. February 8 is not a deadline to solve this bill. It is a deadline to keep the government funded but not to solve this problem. March 5, the deadline the president has set, can be changed if necessary,” said Goodlatte, who also notes a federal judge has ordered a stay on Trump’s order.
“We should use all the time that’s necessary to get this done right and not a minute longer,” said Goodlatte.
The Goodlatte bill and the Senate’s Gang of Six legislation differ significantly in many ways. It allows current DACA enrollees to receive legal status for three years, which they can renew in perpetuity. The bill does not offer them a pathway to citizenship, and it grants no legal status to people eligible for DACA but failed to enroll.
The Senate plan offers a pathway to citizenship to DACA recipients as well as the other so-called “Dreamers.” It also confers legal status on the very parents who broke the law to bring their families to the U.S.
Goodlatte’s plan would also greatly limit chain migration to only spouses and minor children, kill the visa lottery, authorize whatever is necessary to beef up border security, and make overstaying one’s visa a crime.
Goodlatte says his legislation comes from a very straightforward premise.
“We agreed we would negotiate on four points: security, chain migration, ending the visa lottery, and DACA. That’s what my bill does,” said Goodlatte.
He also explained his mindset in crafting the legislation. He wants “a fair way way to deal with the problem created by President Obama in this unconstitutional program and ended by President Trump.”
“But then [Trump] turned around and said these individuals need a solution and Congress should do it. We provided that in our bill,” said Goodlatte.
He also wants this to be the last time Congress has to deal with the immigration mess.
“We also are the only plan that addresses Speaker Ryan’s concern and that is that we not allow this problem to happen again,” said Goodlatte.
While the Senate and the media focus on the Gang of Six bill, Goodlatte says he has assurances from Republican House leaders that his legislation will come to the House floor. He says before that time, he plans to educate his colleagues on why all of the various enforcement mechanisms are required and why he thinks they will be effective.
Goodlatte is ready to defend his bill, starting with his refusal to grant DACA enrollees a pathway to citizenship.
“We don’t object to people who are DACA recipients finding an opportunity to get a green card and U.S. citizenship as long as they follow the existing law like anybody else who has followed the rules and come here legally,” said Goodlatte.
“Under our bill, DACA recipients would be allowed to live in the United States permanently with three-year renewables but indefinitely. [They can] work in the United States, own a business in the United States, travel in and out of the country and if they find a way under the normal law to qualify for U.S. citizenship that’s fine, but not a special pathway to citizenship,” said Goodlatte.
He says the parents who perpetrated the crime of illegal immigration should not be rewarded in any way.
“I am not unsympathetic to the situation, but it is a situation that their parents created for them and one we have to respond to with that in mind. In other words, take care of them but don’t give them an opportunity to petition for those same parents who were responsible for coming here illegally in the first place,” said Goodlatte.
In exchange for granting legal status for DACA recipients, Goodlatte’s bill clamps down hard on chain migration, ending the practice of an immigrant sponsoring many extended family members to come into the U.S. It also ends the visa lottery.
“The visa lottery is a crazy program that gives 55,000 people green cards every year, not based on family relations, not based on job skills, but based upon pure luck. That is totally unfair and it is a national security concern as well,” said Goodlatte.
When it comes to border security, President Trump has made it clear that there will be provision for a border wall or he will not agree to DACA legislation. Goodlatte says Republicans are in agreement on what that means.
“There is a need to repair fences, to extend the wall and build a wall in some places, particularly in high population areas and in high crime areas where there is a lot of smuggling going on. You do not need it where there are mountains, where there are large deserts, or where there are rivers,” said Goodlatte.
But he cautions enforcement advocates that there is a lot more to preventing the influx of illegal immigration than just the wall.
“That is one tool but it doesn’t at all address the 40 percent of [illegal immigrants] who come into this country legally and them simply ignore the laws and overstay their visas. Nor does it address the people who come into the country illegally and are not trying to evade the border patrol but are actually going to them and turning themselves in,” said Goodlatte.
He says those people are then released into the U.S. and told to show up for a court hearing, which they rarely do.
Goodlatte’s bill is officially known as H.R. 4760.