A key Republican player on immigration may be changing his tune on amnesty.
In January 2012, the “Immigration Reform” page on the official House website of Representative Bob Goodlatte, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said: “In no event should we grant amnesty to those who have broken our laws and entered the country illegally. Doing so would simply invite more illegal immigration in the future.”
Throughout 2012 and much of 2013, the Virginia Republican’s House “Immigration Reform” page denounced “amnesty.” As late as April 2013, it said “we must not grant amnesty to individuals who have broken our laws.”
Now, though, this prohibition has been scrubbed from his “Immigration Reform” page. Instead, this page now talks about how “we can all agree that our nation’s immigration system is broken” and the need to be thoughtful in remaking U.S. immigration policies. Earlier versions of this page had an almost single-minded focus on the need to enforce immigration laws. The notion that our immigration system is “broken” is often a key argument of allies of the White House’s immigration agenda.
According to Politico, Chairman Goodlatte said in a Telemundo interview that is set to air on Sunday that he is very open to legalizing current illegal immigrants:
If we can have a way to get [enforcement] up and operating, I see no reason why we can’t also have an agreement that shows how people who are not lawfully here can be able to be lawfully here – able to live here, work here, travel to and from their home country, be able to own a business, pay their taxes.
When reached for comment about the removal of the “amnesty” language, a Goodlatte spokesman issued the following statement: “Congressman Goodlatte’s website is updated periodically and unfortunately during an update early last year, his position on amnesty was inadvertently deleted. However, he is opposed to amnesty and always has been. He does not support a special pathway to citizenship that rewards those who have broken our immigration laws.”
Some Republicans seem to believe that legalization without citizenship would not be the equivalent of “amnesty” (and some Democrats, like Chicago congressman Luis Gutierrez, believe that any legalization would eventually lead to citizenship in any case). Representative Goodlatte’s Telemundo comments come at a time when some in House leadership are trying to revive the fortunes of a big immigration deal or series of deals — on Friday morning on the House floor, Majority Leader Eric Cantor argued that “immigration reform could be an economic boon to this country.”
Still, hurdles to the president’s immigration agenda remain. In his Telemundo comments, Goodlatte stressed the difficulty of gaining the public’s trust on immigration enforcement in the wake of the Obama administration’s heavy use of executive authority in the rollout of Obamacare and on other issues. Meanwhile, some Republicans might be paying attention to the fact that December’s disappointing jobs report could undermine the case for more guest workers.