Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
February 10, 2016

Goodlatte’s Piecemeal Approach on Immigration Has an Upside

An aide said Goodlatte is trying to involve more members in the process of overhauling the immigration system, not trying to kill the ultimate bill. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

An aide said Goodlatte is trying to involve more members in the process of overhauling the immigration system, not trying to kill the ultimate bill. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

House Judiciary Chairman Robert W. Goodlatte sent a clear signal last week that the bipartisan working group does not have sole authority to set the terms of debate on immigration.

But the consensus Beltway reaction to the Virginia Republican’s decision to drop two immigration bills in committee — that Goodlatte purposely undermined the working group to diminish the prospects of a bipartisan deal — is wrong. In fact, Goodlatte’s move could diffuse the political tension on an issue that is very sensitive for House Republicans by involving more members in the process and dispelling suspicion that an immigration rewrite was pre-cooked on orders from GOP leadership.

“He wants to make sure that all members have the voices of their constituents heard. Look back at 2007 and why [immigration overhaul efforts] failed: It was very much top down,” a House Judiciary Committee aide told me during a brief telephone interview.

The two bills dropped by Goodlatte include one he authored to create a “market-driven” guest-worker program that’s “farmer friendly” and one by Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, an immigration hardliner, to beef up the E-Verify system intended to ensure that employers don’t hire illegal workers. The Judiciary aide confirmed that the bills have been scheduled for hearings only, not a markup, and that they have not been “fast-tracked.”

Goodlatte is likely to schedule hearings for additional proposals after the House returns from this week’s recess, including a Senate proposal developed by the “gang of eight.”

Sources close to the House immigration working group, which is comprised of four Democrats and four Republicans, said that its members weren’t put off by Goodlatte’s decision to begin holding hearings on other immigration legislation. But the House group does believe that Goodlatte was trying to send a message that they should wrap up their negotiations because he’d like to get the committee process moving. The group still expects to unveil its proposal in May.

“What it means to the group is that they need to get their act together and finish really soon,” said a Republican congressional aide familiar with the House working group’s negotiations. Part of the group’s calculation is how it rolls out its proposal. Members have planned an extensive effort to educate their colleagues prior to publicizing their bill to reporters and the public.

Goodlatte and other top House Republicans have suggested that, unlike the Senate, immigration overhaul legislation in their chamber would fare better in pieces, and is therefore more likely to proceed in such fashion. But a second Republican source familiar with the House “gang of eight” negotiations said the separate pieces of legislation would likely be merged into one vehicle once an immigration overhaul package is ready for floor consideration.

Some House Republicans have speculated that holding separate but coordinated votes on various aspects of immigration policy would boost its prospects. Even if some portions of the package fail, they could always be put back in during a conference committee with the Democratic-controlled Senate. In any event, the House Judiciary aide had this to say about Goodlatte’s intentions: “He’s not trying to slow walk [an immigration rewrite] to kill it. He wants to get it right so that we don’t have the same debate 10 years down road.”

  • Armorer

    Why is it that EVERY piece on the immigration debate from a source Inside the Beltway takes the position that anything and everything that advances the misguided policy termed “comprehensive immigration reform” is an indisputable good? It’s not exactly news that the Establishment wants massive immigration, but how about being a bit less transparent? Try faking balance if you can’t achieve it in reality. Even a semblance of fair reporting is better than nothing.

    • Ubi Panis

      We have an immigration problem, and ignoring it isn’t a viable solution. The alternative is immigration reform, and all but the most extreme and uncompromising voices are ready to work together on a deal.

  • American

    Immigration reform is needed in for two major reasons.
    1. It will give us new laws to keep those here illegally from getting jobs.
    2. It will help other Americans and permanent residents to legalize thier spouses, fathers and mothers. This is something that I believe is essential to our economy.

  • Armorer

    To Ubi Panis:
    This “solution” is worse than the problem is sets out to cure. Like every other amnesty, it will vastly increase illegal and low-skill immigration. Experience is an excellent guide. Remember, the “Gang of Eights” proposal is very long on promises and short on concrete answers. It also fails to detail what the real numbers will be in terms of immigration. The main engine driving all immigration is “extended family unification.” Even if the proposal scales that back a bit, we are talking about an increase somewhere in the realm of 33-66 million people from Mexico alone in 20 years, according to the best demographers. If they receive any access to entitlement programs — and trust me, for all the tough talk now the Dems will see they get it — the cost will be in excess of $2 trillion. There is also a very significant national security problem. Not only will the borders remain porous — there are NO METRICS in the plan — but do you honestly think the Feds can be trusted to do background checks on 12 million people (I’m pretending the ridiculously low number is accurate?) The head of USCIS, Alejandro Mayorkas made a motto for his agency — the ones that give visas — “get to yes.” Agents that showed professionalism and barred national security risk were routinely demoted or harassed. Our present “problem” is nothing in comparison to what we’d have if this legislative monstrosity passes. This is not a “right wing” view. Paul Krugman has said that these immigrants will bankrupt the social safety net, including Social Security. We can’t destroy ourselves to accommodate people who should not be here in the first place.

  • Dave from Ohio

    No amnesty period! What other nation on earth turns itself into a pretzel to try to provide amnesty to tens of millions of whining lawbreakers, line cutters who have already received many freebies compliments of the U.S. taxpayer?!

    Especially when ten of millions of American citizens are jobless and suffering!

    If Goodlatte or the rest of the GOP supports any form of amnesty, the GOP is finished as a party as the amnestied illegals will vote for Democrats and the GOP base will stay home.

    • American

      To begin with the amestied illegals won’t be voting for a very long time because they won’t be able to become citizens for almost 11yrs as things stand now. By the time that some do adjust their status to become a citizen they may well be more inclined to being Republicans. That is if my party can get rid of the radicals and swing back to being more moderate.

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