Image: On April 10, 2013, thousands gathered on Capitol Hill to rally in support of immigration reform. (Flickr/David Sachs/SEIU International)
Recent remarks by House Republican leaders indicate the GOP is preparing to move forward with immigration reform legislation that includes a path to legal status for undocumented immigrants currently living in the United States.
In an interview with Telemundo’s “Enfoque” on Sunday, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) said he sees “no reason” why the GOP-controlled House can’t reach an agreement on legislation to allow undocumented immigrants to legalize their status as long as Congress passes border security and interior enforcement measures.
“If we’re going to have an agreement that there’s gonna be a legal status for people who are already here, there also has to be an agreement that there’s not going to be a future wave of illegal immigration,” Goodlatte said. “That is the part that is difficult to bring together, but we’re working on it.”
He said a path to legal status would enable undocumented immigrants “to live here, work here, travel to and from their home country” as well as “own a business, pay their taxes.” But before that can happen, he said some enforcement measures — like an electronic employment verification system and an entry-exit visa program — would have to be “up and operating effectively.”
Goodlatte’s remarks come days after House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) told Republicans at a closed-door meeting last Wednesday that he expected to release a set of principles on immigration reform in the next few weeks.
During the interview with Telemundo, Goodlatte spoke briefly about Boehner’s plans to release the set of principles but didn’t give any specifics of what is included in the document. Instead, he said the document is meant to “galvanize” the kind of support that’s necessary to pass immigration reform legislation in the House.
“We’re trying to find a way to give the members of the House a way to see how all these things would work in our step-by-step approach,” he said. “And we think one way to do that may be to put forward a set of principles.”
Some immigration reform advocates say they see these remarks by Goodlatte and Boehner as “a promising first step from the House GOP.” However, they say many questions still remain about policy specifics and about when legislation with a path to legal status will be introduced.
Lynn Tramonte, deputy director of America’s Voice, said “it’s encouraging” to see the House Republican leaders moving forward with immigration reform but noted that “it’s been a long time coming.”
“The good news is there is widespread acknowledgment that it won’t be immigration reform without addressing with the 11 million aspiring Americans,” Tramonte said. “But principles are not enough; we need legislation.”
“They’ve been promising proposals for months and only giving us sound bites,” she continued. “GOP leaders need to put some skin in the game, kick off this process, and get it to a resolution this year.”