This week, Bob Goodlatte chairs the House Judiciary Committee and has long had a restrictionist record on immigration. He made news this week when he told National Public Radio he didn't favor a "path to citizenship" for the millions of people who might legalize under an immigration reform bill. According to the story:
"People have a pathway to citizenship right now: It's to abide by the immigration laws, and if they have a family relationship, if they have a job skill that allows them to do that, they can obtain citizenship," Goodlatte says. "But simply someone who broke the law, came here, [to] say, 'I'll give you citizenship now,' that I don't think is going to happen."
What was not reported by many news outlets is the fact that Goodlatte also sent a "Dear Colleague" letter this week that urged fellow House members to ignore any efforts by Republican leaders to bypass his committee and move toward action on a Senate bill directly on the House floor.
Read in the worst light, some pro-immigration advocates fear moving an immigration reform bill through the House committees would mean the bill would likely die before reaching the floor. And even though a bill could pass committee and be completely reworked through amendment on the House floor, passage of an extreme bill (such as one that has no legalization program) would only further damage the Republican's national branding problem with Hispanics.
On the other hand, some believe Goodlatte is posturing for his fellow Republican committee members and would not be all that upset if Republican leaders get their way. Furthermore, it is possible his remarks signal a moderating view on immigration reform. He is focusing on not creating a special citizenship path for immigrants and has not said he is against granting some kind of lesser status that would be indefinite and provide one with the right to work. That's a big change if, in fact, that is his view.
Furthermore, his words might signal a willingness to move along a compromise strategy that I have previously suggested on this blog. Rather than allowing legalized immigrants the ability to apply for green cards simply by waiting eight years (as the President's plan suggested), you can require them to pursue green cards through conventional green card paths (like the family and employment routes Goodlatte mentioned in his quote). The key is to make green card quotas large enough to absorb them and also allow them to waive the three and ten year overstay bars (such as by paying a fine). The approach has two big benefits - it would allay the concerns about creating a special citizenship path that is easier for legalized individuals than everyone else who has pursued green cards through the current system. And it would require everyone pursuing green cards this way to wait in line behind those currently in the queues.
Cantor Praises Labor, Business Guest Worker Compromise
Cantor hasn't endorsed full-on immigration reform, but his remarks lately have been getting better and better. Recently, he suggested he supports the DREAM Act and now he's praising a guest worker strategy. He's still not saying what he thinks about a broader legalization program, but I suspect he's as concerned about the GOP's national brand as people like Karl Rove and Jeb Bush. But he's in a more precarious position given his role in a House that is filled with a lot of anti-immigrants.
“I applaud the Chamber of Commerce and the AFL-CIO for coming together to find common ground in an effort to reform our broken immigration system," said Cantor in a statement. "Their goal of protecting American workers and ensuring we have the workforce we need to grow the economy and remain globally competitive is one I share. While we may not agree on every aspect, it is encouraging that two groups often on opposite sides of the aisle are serious about putting politics aside and finding solutions. Let’s hope we can follow that lead in the months ahead.”
Hispanic Support for Obama Again at Historic Highs
A new USA Today/Pew Poll shows Hispanic support for President Obama at the highest levels since he took office in 2009. 73% of Hispanics back the President, up from just 48% in late 2011. They also back the President over congressional Republicans on immigration by a whopping 73-15%.
The support for the President on immigration extends to the general public as well. He best Republicans on the issue by a 51-37% margin. And nearly 9 in 10 say a major immigration overhaul is overdue.
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Greg Siskind is a partner in Siskind Susser's Memphis, Tennessee, office. After graduating magna cum laude from Vanderbilt University, he received his Juris Doctorate from the University of Chicago. Mr. Siskind is a member of AILA, a board member of the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, and a member of the ABA, where he serves on the LPM Publishing Board as Marketing Vice Chairman. He is the author of several books, including the J Visa Guidebook and The Lawyer's Guide to Marketing on the Internet. Mr. Siskind practices all areas of immigration law, specializing in immigration matters of the health care and technology industries. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.