House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte has repeatedly rejected
the Senate Gang of Eight's "special pathway to citizenship," but Thursday endorsed what he called an "earned" way for young undocumented immigrants to become United States citizens.
The Virginia Republican said young immigrants whose parents brought them to the United States illegally should meet specific requirements — such as earning an education or joining the military — before being eligible for citizenship. Goodlatte made the remarks during a House Republican Conference event in observance of Hispanic Heritage Month, Politico reported Thursday
Goodlatte, a former immigration attorney, also indicated that he's open to exploring other ways within the current existing channels for the undocumented immigrant population in general to become legalized. But he said that most should gain citizenship by winning sponsorship from a family member, a U.S. spouse, or an employer.
"We have to find the appropriate legal status for people who are not lawfully here," the committee chairman reportedly said.
The Virginian acknowledged that not all of the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants now in the United States would eventually become citizens. But he insisted his approach "will be a major solution to the problem if you were able to be legally present in the United States, able to work anywhere you wanted, able to own your own business, able to pay your taxes, travel to your home country and back or any other country you wanted to travel to," according to NBC News
He also said he and other Republicans were committed to pushing immigration reform through the House, adding "the sooner the better."
Alfonso Aguilar, the executive director of the Latino Partnership for Conservative Principals, called Goodlatte's remarks encouraging, Politico noted.
"He clarified that Republicans in the House are not against closing the door to citizenship to those who legalize, as some in the left irresponsibly allege," he said in a statement. "I hope Democrats in the House respond favorably to these comments and decide to work with Republicans to get immigration reform passed in the House."
According to NBC, South Carolina Republican Rep. Trey Gowdy also said Thursday that providing a path to citizenship for so-called young immigrant "DREAMers" shows that "there is growing consensus in our conference to provide a solution for these children who have contributed to our country and want to continue to do so."
But Angela Kelley, vice president for immigration policy at the liberal Center for American Progress, told NBC that it may be comforting to some to hear Republican talk about citizenship for young immigrants but hard to tell if they're serious about real immigration reform without actually seeing a final detailed bill.
As things stand now, the House Judiciary panel has approved four separate bills, all along party lines, to overhaul current immigration law. The House Homeland Security Committee has also unanimously passed through a border-security bill.
Goodlatte said Thursday his committee is also working on four additional bills, but did not elaborate. Meanwhile, he is working together with House Majority Leader Eric Cantor on a so-called "DREAM Act
" to help legalize young immigrants.
At the same time, Republican Reps. Ted Poe of Texas and Paul Labrador of Idaho are also working on legislation dealing with visas for temporary workers.
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