‘Pressure Is Off’

Goodlatte Tells Local Leaders He’s Waiting For Immigration Reform

Posted: June 18, 2014

U.S. Rep. Bob Goodlatte speaks about the issues in Congress during a luncheon with community leaders at the Terrace at Rocktown in Harrisonburg on Tuesday. (Photos by Michael Reilly / DN-R)
U.S. Rep. Bob Goodlatte (standing) chats with (from left) Kemper Funkhouser, COO with Funkhouser Real Estate Group; Del. Steve Landes, R-Weyers Cave; and Lowell Barb, Rockingham County commissioner of revenue. Goodlatte addressed about 40 community leaders Tuesday during a luncheon at the Terrace at Rocktown.

HARRISONBURG — Sixth District Rep. Bob Goodlatte said the “pressure is off” Congress to pass sweeping immigration reform.

But that’s not because an overhaul is unnecessary, the Roanoke Republican says.

It’s President Barack Obama’s lack of enforcement of existing laws that is standing in the way, the congressman said at a meeting of about 40 Harrisonburg and Rockingham County leaders on Tuesday.

There’s less incentive to broker a deal when reform activists are basically getting it unilaterally from the president, he said.

“He’s doing it himself,” Goodlatte said at a luncheon he hosted at Terrace at Rocktown.

An opponent of providing a pathway to citizenship for children brought to the country illegally, the congressman discussed what he views as the latest example of Obama’s contribution to the nation’s immigration issues: a swell in undocumented youth from Central America coming across the U.S.-Mexican border.

“The administration is not tackling this at all,” Goodlatte said. “We can’t open our doors to every person from every part of a very troubled world.”

Goodlatte plans to hold a hearing on the matter June 25 in the House Judiciary Committee, which he serves as chairman.

It’s titled “An Administration Made Disaster: The South Texas Border Surge of Unaccompanied Alien Minors.”

Obama has described the situation as an “urgent humanitarian situation” and has asked Congress for more than $1 billion to help.

Hundreds of children are temporarily being housed at two military bases and other shelters in the Southwest and West.

Goodlatte is pushing for enforcement of current immigration laws before focusing on larger reform. He reiterated on Tuesday a common complaint he’s had: Too many undocumented immigrants overstay their visas.

Goodlatte estimates that nearly 40 percent of the 11 million undocumented immigrants in the country arrived legally, but the United States does not have a “good way of knowing” when, or if, those people leave.

He’s hopeful to pass legislation that creates an electronic database that records when someone comes and goes on their visa.

“We have to know whether people who come here leave,” Goodlatte said.

Also Tuesday, City Councilman Richard Baugh, a Democrat, and Harrisonburg business owner Edwin Joya went to Washington — and Goodlatte’s office — to lobby for immigration reform.

Baugh took part in a panel discussion with several rural leaders from around the country and took away a “positive feel,” in general, about the possibility that Congress might take action in the near future.

Joya, 39, owns Edwin’s Auto Sales at the corner of Washington and North Main streets. He was also “very optimistic” about reforms on the horizon, saying he spoke to lawmakers about the economic benefits of giving undocumented immigrants a chance to live here legally.

“If we can get these [lawmakers] to help push for immigration reform, help people become legal, these guys are going to be able to spend more money in the community, buy more cars in my case, buy more houses and drive more freely in the roads without being afraid of being pulled over by policemen,” he said.

Contact Preston Knight at 574-6272 or pknight@dnronline.com

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