Goodlatte: No Rush On Immigration Reform
New Judiciary Chair To Play Key Role In Process
Posted: February 12, 2013
HARRISONBURG — Congress often acts on issues despite its members lacking life experience with the problem, according to 6th District Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Roanoke.
A current attempt at immigration reform is one example, Goodlatte says.
“I only know of three members of Congress who practice immigration law,” said Goodlatte, who is one of those three. “It is exceptionally complex and not something most people deal with on a day-to-day basis at all.”
Congress has embarked this session on the path to solving what the area’s congressman says is a system in “desperate need of repair.” The House Judiciary Committee held its initial hearing on immigration last week, which included two witness panels.
And Goodlatte, as chairman of the committee, will have a major say in the outcome of the discussions.
“It’s an issue that is at the top of our agenda,” he said in an interview Friday. “We’re not going to rush it. We want to make sure all different aspects are carefully explored. … I would rather get it done right [than fast].”
In late January, a bipartisan group of senators announced an immigration reform plan that they hoped would advance quickly to give 11 million undocumented immigrants a path to citizenship. It will be a tough sell in the Republican-controlled House, where conservatives have opposed such a route on the grounds that it is nothing more than amnesty.
The Senate Judiciary Committee will hold its first briefing on immigration Wednesday.
Alicia Horst, executive director of NewBridges Immigrant Resource Center in Harrisonburg, favors the “careful, deliberate” approach.
“The ‘sooner the better’ mentality might not serve in the long run,” she said. “It’s helpful if it’s written well.”
What the end product will cover could be a “dozen or more” areas of immigration within the spectrum of mass deportation and a pathway to citizenship, Goodlatte said. A series of meetings will occur — some this week — in the House Judiciary’s subcommittees.
Goodlatte said reform should include the STEM Jobs Act. It eliminates the immigration visa lottery, which gives out 55,000 visas a year on “pure luck,” and replaces it with a system awarding green cards to foreign students who graduate with degrees in science, technology, engineering and math, he said.
“They are job creators,” Goodlatte said of STEM graduates.
The visa lottery, meanwhile, creates security and fairness issues by randomly giving visas to people from nations that have lower immigration rates into the U.S., he said.
Goodlatte also wants to make “universal” the E-verify system that allows employers to determine the eligibility of their workers, and he hopes to overhaul the guest worker program for the agricultural industry. The government allows farmers to bring in temporary workers if they cannot find American workers, but many farmers view the process as burdensome.
Farmers in some states “really suffer” from a lack of labor and could use a system with fewer restrictions, Horst said.
Since Congress has “cobbled together over time” its immigration policy, she is glad to hear that Goodlatte wants to take a thoughtful, patient approach to reform.
Of course, he has spoken for years about how immigration issues will not be solved overnight. Goodlatte just now happens to have a leadership role to control advancement of the topic.
It will take Congress finding “common ground,” he admits.
“Something like this is not going to pass unless it’s bipartisan,” Goodlatte said.
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