Goodlatte Addresses Full House At Town Hall
Immigration, NSA Hot Topics At Verona Forum
Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R- Roanoke, speaks Monday during a town-hall Q&A at the Augusta County Government Center. (Photos by Jason Lenhart / DN-R)
Suzanne Curran, western vice chairwoman of the Republican Party of Virginia, asks Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Roanoke, a question Monday during a town hall forum at the Augusta County Government Center in Verona.
Inside of a packed Board of Supervisors room at the Augusta County Government Center, the Valley’s congressman spoke for 30 minutes to explain the duties of the panel he chairs, the House Judiciary Committee, before fielding questions for the next hour. Congress is off the month of August.
Immigration, one of the most-debated issues that falls to the Judiciary Committee, was the basis for most of the questions. Goodlatte maintained that the nation must establish security measures and increase interior enforcement before addressing the legal status of undocumented immigrants, including children brought to the country illegally by their parents.
Unlike a comprehensive Senate bill that has passed and includes a pathway to citizenship for all undocumented immigrants, Goodlatte said the “step-by-step” approach of his committee solves enforcement problems.
Bills that have passed the panel and await debate on the House floor include tracking people who overstay their visas and making mandatory a voluntary system that checks a worker’s Social Security number.
“We’re very far apart,” Goodlatte said of the House and Senate. “If we had been doing immigration reform on a regular basis over the last two decades, we wouldn’t be in the situation we are in today. That’s the problem, rebuilding trust in that system.
“We’re not anti-immigration. We’re in favor of doing it right.”
Trust is also an issue with the NSA after the recent leaking of a secret program that stores phone and online information of Americans. Goodlatte plans to hold a classified hearing with top-ranking officials as early as next month to determine what changes may be needed.
Related legislation coming through the committee will address law enforcement’s intelligence-gathering practices in vehicles and when a driver’s location can be detected, he said.
Congress must balance keeping the public safe without infringing on people’s civil liberties and constitutional rights, Goodlatte said. That extends to owning a gun, a fundamental right, he said, that he defends while others call for reform that includes additional background checks — such as in private transactions at guns shows.
“Most criminals buy their guns out on the street. They buy it from someone out of the back of their car. They steal it. … You could make that [private] purchase in your backyard over your fence,” he said. “I think you’re adding a very significant burden … on law-abiding citizens.”
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