In an interview with Telemundo’s Jose Diaz Balart that will air this weekend, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) discussed prospects for immigration reform. What he reportedly said made me cautiously hopeful. But it also showed me that we all have some work to do to get to smart reform.
According to a transcript of the interview, he talked about the progress that the committee had made last year by passing four bills out of committee. Now, none of those four bills was anything that I’d want to see become law in their current forms, and at least one of the bills is quite troubling. A couple of the others have some elements worth using, but need more work.
He didn’t share much about the principles that Speaker Boehner says are forthcoming from House, but he did say that they hoped those principles might galvanize support for immigration reform. He emphasized the need for interior enforcement and the fact that a large proportion of immigrants who are here unlawfully are actually overstays. That all seemed reasonable.
I am heartened that he was talking about achieving a legal status “for people who are not lawfully here.” It is important for any immigration reform to recognize that legality, not mass deportations, is the answer for most of the people here without status. And he is right that they should be “able to live here, work here, travel to and from their home country. Be able to– own a business, pay their taxes.”
But stopping there would be a mistake. The problems that some European and Middle Eastern countries have faced by having people present with no hope of ultimate integration—essentially a permanent second-class status—have created undue pain for those countries. Unless we fix the legal immigration system, and make sure that the people whose statuses are regularized now can participate fully in a robust legal immigration system, with an opportunity for naturalization for those who seek it, we will not have lasting reform.
I’m an immigration attorney and after decades in practice, I want change. I would love to see the day when our system is more than just a cracked and broken set of policies. I would embrace a new, straightforward immigration system that was clear with lines for people to get into without putting them into decades of limbo. I want our businesses to get the best and the brightest as employees, and be able to keep them on. I am eager for the entrepreneurs to feel welcome here in the U.S. and use their talents to drive our economy. I dearly wish for a day when families are no longer torn apart but instead valued for what they are: the cornerstone of our nation.
I believe that this interview is a thawing of Mr. Goodlatte’s views on immigration and I feel cautiously hopeful that he is committed to really trying to pass meaningful legislation. I, for one, stand ready to help.