House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) has proven what a difference a few weeks can make for immigration reform. As Congress returns this week to a packed schedule, Goodlatte told WAMU’s Kojo Nnamdi on Tuesday that congressional fights over Syria and the debt limit “should not deter us from getting to [immigration] as soon as possible.” He said his committee and others have already passed smaller immigration bills relating to border security, internal enforcement, guest workers, and high-tech visas, and there could be votes on these measures as soon as October. “Those bills are ready to go to the floor of the House and it’s my hope they come to the floor of the House as soon as possible,” he said on the Kojo Nnamdi Show.
In addition to those bills, Goodlatte added the KIDS Act, a limited version of the DREAM Act for some young immigrants to earn citizenship through education or military service, could also come up in the House. Goodlatte and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor confirmed in July they were working on the bill. As MSNBC’s Benjy Sarlin explains, Goodlatte also wants to prevent the problem from re-emerging:
One of the big obstacles to reaching a final bill, he added, was trying to find a way to discourage future immigrants from bringing their children to America in the hopes of obtaining legal status for them through similar legislation.
Goodlatte said there was still a discussion within the party in general regarding undocumented immigrants and whether, instead of a “special path to citizenship” they might be able to instead obtain citizenship through more limited visa programs available to legal immigrants.
“There is a difference of opinion on whether they get a legal status and then an opportunity if they qualify through the traditional ways through which people have qualified for permanent residence or citizenship or whether they would get a special way,” Goodlatte said during his interview.
What Goodlatte said Tuesday is a different tune than a few weeks ago. During the August recess, Goodlatte said there should be no path to citizenship for DREAMers, and added to the fear mongering around immigrants using asylum claims “to game the system by getting a free pass into the U.S. and a court date that they would not show up for.” The Washington Post Editorial Board on Sunday referred to Goodlatte as an exemplar of “delay, denial and delusion” because of his refusal to consider the Senate’s comprehensive immigration bill and instead insist on a piecemeal approach.
The Judiciary Chairman’s more recentstatements about passing a series of immigration bills in the House hopefully reflects a growing pragmatism that immigration reform is not going away as an issue. Even the fact that he acknowledged a difference of opinion on legalization among the party signals a greater openness to finding a way forward than he has in the past. As the weeks continue, keeping Goodlatte good to his word will be a high priority for those who want to see the House bring immigration reform to a vote.
Photo Courtesy of the Virginia Department of Transportation.