immigration reform? At a committee hearing, sympathy is expressed for
young DREAMers, but not their parents.
trying to feel out just how far they can go on one of the topic’s most
central and sensitive issues: whether or not the nation’s estimated 12
million undocumented immigrants should ever be allowed to become U.S.
The House GOP, under pressure from President Obama and a bipartisan
contingent of senators who passed a comprehensive fix last month, made
two things clear Tuesday at a hearing in the House Judiciary
immigration subcommittee on children brought to the United States
Many GOP members appeared amenable to making special concessions to
those in the US illegally through no fault of their own. But the
parents of those children and the wider undocumented community are,
those same members made clear, going to get little sympathy from
“We should look at children brought here by their parents … as not
being able to have illegal status because they did not consent to the
act. They did not make that determination mentally. Therefore, they
should be treated in a special way,” said Rep. Ted Poe (R) of Texas.
“This is a unique, special issue in the entire discussion of
The chairman of the larger Judiciary Committee, Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R)
of Virginia, who is working on a bill with House majority leader Eric
Cantor (R) of Virginia to address the status of undocumented youth,
“Many of them know no other home other than the United States,” said
Representative Goodlatte. “They certainly don’t share the culpability
of their parents.”
But Rep. Trey Gowdy (R) of South Carolina, the subcommittee chairman,
made it clear that their parents had plenty of culpability – and that
they wouldn’t get the same deal as the young DREAMers, so called
because they meet the general requirements for a reprieve from
deportation under the DREAM Act.
Those same equities do not apply in the same regard to the other 11
million undocumented immigrants,” Representative Gowdy said.
Rep. Cory Gardner (R) of Colorado was even more explicit: “We cannot
reward those family members who have broken the law.”
What House Republicans like Gowdy want are a series of policy
prescriptions for different parts of the population of people in the
US illegally, ranging from special treatment for DREAMers up to
deportation for those who can’t pass background checks or have
significant criminal records.
Under the bipartisan Senate legislation, those in the country
illegally must pass background checks and pay fines twice over 10
years in order to get a provisional legal status. If a series of
border security and employment verification measures are in place in a
decade’s time, those in provisional status can apply for permanent
residency and then citizenship, a process that could take as long as
13 years. DREAMers would have an expedited, five-year path to
citizenship under the Senate bill.
But the broad desire of lawmakers like Gowdy and Goodlatte puts them
in a difficult position between some members of their own conference
Rep. Steve King (R) of Iowa, perhaps the conference’s leading
immigration hardliner, railed that in offering a special status for
DREAMers “you’ve sacrificed the rule of law in the name of political
expediency,” alluding to the party’s many voices that argue
immigration reform is a crucial olive branch to Latino and Asian
communities who punished GOP candidates in the 2012 elections.
But in drawing a multitude of lines dividing those who can stay and
hewing off those who must go raises the possibility, immigration
advocates howl, of splitting families.
While Goodlatte and Representative Cantor are working on a bill, the
lack of a public document has led immigration advocates to conclude
that Republicans plan on making an offer of legal status for DREAMers
and DREAMers alone.
“How could we say, yes, we want a pathway to citizenship for us,” said
Cristina Jimenez, managing director of DREAMer advocacy group United
We Dream at a press conference Tuesday, “and then say ‘Deport our
This all leaves Democrats rather befuddled. Many members lauded the
fact that Republicans, long opponents of the DREAM Act and other bills
that would help young undocumented immigrants who served in the
military or obtained high school degrees, were now openly
contemplating similar legislation.
At the same time, moving just the DREAM Act by itself appears
“farcical” to Democrats, an attempt at political inoculation versus an
actual attempt to help those hurt by the nation’s immigration laws, as
Rep. Joe Garcia (D) of Florida said Tuesday.
That skepticism stems both from history and from the fact that House
Democrats are suffering from a bit of whiplash on the issue.
Republicans voted only several weeks ago to block the Department of
Homeland Security’s policy known as deferred action for young
“Which is the real Republican Party?” wondered House minority whip
Steny Hoyer (D) of Maryland.
But with the legislative road to Mr. Obama’s desk still running
through the House GOP and Speaker John Boehner of Ohio, Democrats have
little choice but to take Republicans where they are.
“Without you, we cannot achieve success,” said Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D)
of Illinois, the author of the House’s comprehensive 2006 immigration
reform bill. “If the Republican Majority is starting with the DREAMers
because that is as far as you are willing to go in terms of legal
status for undocumented immigrants, I say thank you for coming this
far, because even a small step in the right direction is the first
step in any good faith negotiation. It says a compromise may be within
“But let me be absolutely crystal clear and unequivocal,”
Representative Gutierrez concluded. “Legalizing only the DREAMers is