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Cantor, Goodlatte Prep House 'Dream Act' Bill

Image: Cantor, Goodlatte Prep House 'Dream Act' Bill

Thursday, 11 Jul 2013 11:23 PM

By Tom Topousis

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House leaders are considering their own version of the Dream Act with a bill that would create a path to citizenship for some children brought to the U.S. illegally, The Hill reported.

The bill is being drafted by Majority Leader Eric Cantor and Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, both from Virginia, and represents the first Republican measure that takes up the issue of a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants.

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A spokeswoman for Cantor said the bill is in its “early stages,” The Hill reported, noting that it would not be as broad in its application as a measure included in the Senate immigration reform bill.

The Senate’s Dream Act calls for an accelerated path to citizenship for children and young adults who are in college or in the U.S. military. The Hill reports that the House version would limit its path to citizenship to younger immigrants.

Any bill providing a path to citizenship is a major step in the Republican-controlled house, where some members have openly balked at legislation that would grant legal status and citizenship to immigrants who broke the law to come to the U.S.

Goodlatte, in a statement released Thursday, said an exception should be made for children who were brought here illegally at no fault of their own.

“As part of the step-by-step approach the House is taking to address immigration reform, Leader Cantor and I are working on a bill to provide a legal status to those who were brought illegally to the U.S. as children by their parents,” Goodlatte said.

“These children came here through no fault of their own and many of them know no other home than the United States,” Goodlatte said. “This is one component of immigration reform — any successful reform plan must improve our legal immigration programs, strengthen border security and the interior enforcement of our immigration laws, and find a way to fairly deal with those who are currently in the country unlawfully.”

Goodlatte’s Judiciary Committee has approved four immigration bills so far, including legislation that would boost interior enforcement, create an e-verify system for employers, expand visas for high-skilled workers and create an agricultural guest-worker program.

But a bill creating a Dream Act is a major policy change for House Republicans. The GOP-controlled House has consistently voted against Senate bills calling for a Dream Act and voted last month to defund President Obama’s 2012 executive order to protect young illegal immigrants from deportation.

Some Democrats welcomed the latest House move on Thursday, but said it doesn’t go far enough to create a path to citizenship for 11 million illegal immigrants, similar to the one included in the Senate bill.

“You’ve got to deal with all aspects of the broken immigration system,” Rep. Xavier Becerra, a California Democrat told The Hill.

“You can help the kids, but if you leave the parents behind, you still have a very broken system,” said Becerra, the Democratic caucus chairman who is part of a group trying to write a bipartisan immigration reform bill in the House.

The House version of the Dream Act was discussed during a two-hour closed-door meeting by the Republican conference on Wednesday, when several lawmakers spoke in favor of moving forward with the legislation, The Hill reported.

“It seemed like a lot more people [thought] that if you were brought here as a child and you graduate valedictorian — how can we be against it?” a lawmaker at the meeting told The Hill. “A lot of people said that and I was surprised.”

A Republican House leader told The Hill "there was a growing recognition" that the GOP must deal with the issue.

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But Republicans are not openly racing to support the bill. A Judiciary Committee aide told Politico that there are currently no other sponsors for the bill and there is no timetable set to move it forward.

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