House GOPs Warm to DREAMers in Crafting Alternate Immigration Legislation

WASHINGTON – House Republicans remain determined to take a “step-by-step” approach to the problem of illegal immigration and appear disinclined to develop wide-ranging legislation in the manner of the Senate.

Two committees in the lower chamber tackled different aspects of the immigration debate on Tuesday, each expressing interest in developing and moving their own bill. The House Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security looked into the issue of immigrant children brought illegally into the U.S. by their parents who remain without proper documentation. Meanwhile, the Subcommittee on Border and Maritime Security broached ways to tighten the leaky boundary between the U.S. and Mexico.

The sessions came on the heels of comments made over the weekend by House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), who said on CBS television’s Face the Nation that the House intends to deal with immigration “in a common-sense, step-by-step approach. We want to deal with this in chunks, chunks that the members can deal with and grapple with and frankly chunks that the American people can get their arms around.”

Boehner rejected the Senate-passed immigration reform bill, insisting it failed to appropriately address border security problems. Otherwise, he refused to express his personal views on the issue, nor would he predict “what's going to be on the floor and what isn't going to be on the floor.” And he rejected the idea of “1,300-page bills that no one has read.”

Essentially, Boehner and most members of the GOP caucus have adopted the approach of Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, which will handle most of the immigration legislation, who has counseled a deliberate approach that doesn’t result in one massive bill. Regardless, whatever emerges – if anything -- will ultimately be fashioned by a House-Senate conference committee.

“The House is committed to moving forward with a step-by-step process, with proper deliberation and debate surrounding each piece of reform,” said Rep. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.). “It is important that we do this right – proving to the American people the federal government can be trusted to build a lasting system that cannot simply be put aside because it is unworkable or the political will is simply not present to make it work.”

At the House Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security, Goodlatte hinted that those illegal immigrants brought here as children will be “considered from a different perspective” than those who crossed the border on their own free will.

“Many of them know no other home than the U.S., having grown up as Americans since they were toddlers in some instances,” Goodlatte said. “They surely don’t share the culpability of their parents.”

At the same time, Goodlatte said the immigrants who illegally entered the U.S. carrying their children should merit no special consideration.

“Because let’s be clear – parents bringing their young children to the U.S. illegally is not something we want to encourage,” he said. “Not only because it would lead to continued illegal immigration, but also because illegally crossing the border is dangerous.”

Goodlatte also said any legislation should be crafted to prohibit undocumented youths who have joined gangs, been involved in criminal activity or “otherwise shown that they do not intend to be productive members of American society” from becoming permanent residents.

Rep. Jeff Denham (R-Calif.) told the subcommittee that he has introduced the Enlist Act, which authorizes illegal immigrants who entered the U.S. as children to enlist in the armed forces, providing a way for young people in the country illegally to be lawfully admitted for permanent residence by reason of their honorable service.

“For the many thousands of young undocumented immigrants who graduate from our public and private high schools each year, military service would offer an avenue for them to serve the U.S. and earn a legal status in the country they love,” Denham said. “These recruits would provide the military departments with a talent pool of young men and women, many of whom would have strategically valuable language and cultural competencies.”