HARRISONBURG — In a meeting with area civic and business leaders Monday, U.S. Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Roanoke, outlined the full plate of issues confronting the House Judiciary Committee, which he leads as chairman.
But the biggest piece — immigration reform — won’t be cleared off anytime soon, he said.
“Our timetable is we’ll do it when we have it right,” Goodlatte said.
The Senate passed an immigration bill two weeks ago that would offer a 13-year path to citizenship to as many as 11 million immigrants now living in the country illegally. It also calls for 20,000 new Border Patrol agents, construction of 700 miles of fencing and use of high-tech devices along the U.S.-Mexico border, according to The Associated Press.
In the GOP-controlled House, where conservatives such as Goodlatte oppose offering citizenship to people who’ve entered the country unlawfully, the legislation faces a longer road to passage.
The process starts with the Judiciary Committee, which handles immigration bills.
Goodlatte focused on immigration as he spoke to about 40 local leaders at the Terrace at Rocktown on Evelyn Byrd Avenue. He said that the House panel will take a “step by step” approach to reform.
That includes changes to the agricultural guest worker program and e-verify — the electronic employer verification system — plus encouraging legal immigrants graduating from STEM fields — science, technology, engineering and math — to stay, he said.
A pathway to citizenship gives undocumented immigrants a chance to “bypass” the process that immigrants here lawfully go through to get legal status, Goodlatte said.
“I think that is wrong,” he said.
To apply for U.S. citizenship, a lawful resident must be in the country for at least five years, be at least 18 years old and take an oath of allegiance, among other criteria.
The application process can take more than two years, according to U.S. Immigration Services.
Goodlatte said Republican support for reform will not be politically motivated, despite pundits pointing out that compromise began to take shape after President Barack Obama received more than 70 percent of the Hispanic vote in winning re-election last year.
“I think that is a crazy idea,” he said. “I think people will vote based on a lot of other issues before they get to this issue.”
Criminal Laws Tackled
Goodlatte’s visit Monday was his first mass meeting with local leaders since the 6th District congressman became Judiciary Committee chairman in January. He used the platform to explain the roles of the panel’s various subcommittees.
While immigration has received most of the nation’s attention, the committee also is responsible for criminal matters, investigations of federal agencies, bankruptcy and trust laws and intellectual property issues.
Goodlatte said Congress is passing too many new criminal laws that duplicate state statutes. The committee will review that, while also examining overcrowding in federal prisons and trying to reduce the number of federal agencies that have police powers, such as the Department of Labor and Environmental Protection Agency.
The goal, he said, is to “reduce the overall power and scope of the federal government.”
Contact Preston Knight at 574-6272 or firstname.lastname@example.org