Topics: House of Representatives

Key House chairman: Senate immigration bill repeats mistakes of 1986

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Republican Rep. Bob Goodlatte, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, will be one of the most important men on Capitol Hill in the fight to pass comprehensive immigration reform. With the Gang of Eight bill looking more and more likely to make it through the Senate in short order, Goodlatte is one of the lawmakers who will determine whether a reform measure — a bill produced by House negotiators, or the Gang of Eight, or somebody else — will make it through Congress.

So lots of people involved in the reform battle were watching Wednesday when Goodlatte, whose committee will have initial jurisdiction over immigration reform, convened a hearing to consider the Gang of Eight bill. The hearing didn’t have much of an official purpose — the Gang bill has just gotten out of committee and debate on the Senate floor hasn’t even begun — but the meeting was important as an indicator of Goodlatte’s thinking on reform. He gave an early hint to his approach when he chose the title, “S. 744 and the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986: Lessons Learned or Mistakes Repeated?” The “S. 744″ in the title is the Gang of Eight bill, while the 1986 law is widely viewed as a disastrous policy decision that led to millions of immigrants coming illegally to the United States. Just by asking the question, Goodlatte was expressing doubt about the Gang of Eight proposal.

And once he took the microphone for his opening statement, there was no doubt at all about Goodlatte’s feelings. The Gang of Eight bill, he said, “repeats many of the mistakes of the past.”

The bill is “unlikely to secure the border,” Goodlatte declared. It requires the administration to come up with a security plan that “does not have to be complete or be even more than a fantasy.” It “doesn’t fully implement E-Verify for up to seven years,” and even then “forces employers to employ, pay, and train unlawful immigrants for years should they pursue never-ending baseless appeals of their E-Verify non-verifications.”

The Senate bill also places undue trust in the current administration, “which fails to enforce the laws already on the books,” Goodlatte said.  “Real immigration reform needs to have mechanisms to ensure that the president cannot simply turn off the switch on immigration enforcement.  The Senate bill contains no such mechanisms.” In sum, Goodlatte noted, the Senate proposal “falls far short” of the goal of reforming the nation’s immigration system.

It was a decisive vote of no-confidence in the Gang of Eight proposal. Goodlatte hinted that a reform bill, if one is to make it through Congress, will come from the House. “I look forward to continuing to work in the House to find solutions to reform our broken immigration system,” Goodlatte concluded, “including establishing effective mechanisms to make certain that our laws are indeed enforced going forward.” The bottom line: If the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee has any say over the matter, the Gang of Eight bill will face a very rough time in the House.

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Byron York

Chief Political Correspondent
The Washington Examiner