The transcript of Monday’s interview with Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee Robert Goodlatte on immigration reform:
HH: Joining me to update us on where House of Representatives is on immigration reform is Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Congressman Goodlatte from Virginia. Congressman, Mr. Chairman, welcome back, good to have ya.
BG: Good to be with you, Hugh, and your listeners.
HH: Tell us how the debate is unfolding and what you expect will happen when you come back in September?
BG: Well, I think a number of Members are having the opportunity to hear from their constituents about what they want to see with regard to immigration reform. When we go back in September, what I think will happen is that the House will be ready take up the five bills that have passed through the Judiciary Committee, one through the Homeland Security Committee that take the step-by-step approach that we’ve outlined for how to address the three major areas of immigration reform; enforcement, legal immigration reform and finding the appropriate legal status for people who are not here legally today. My opinion is, and I think it’s an opinion shared by the vast majority of Members of the Majority, the Republican Majority in the House, is that we have to have enforcement first, and not just at the border. Border enforcement is obviously very important, but we also have to have it in the interior of the country. We have to have things like mandatory employment verification system, E-Verify, so that people who are not lawfully present in the United States are more easily screened out from taking jobs from U.S. citizens. We have to have an entry/exit Visa system so that people who have entered the country legally and overstayed their Visa, the government right now doesn’t know if they’ve ever left the country. They do a good job of recording the fact that they entered, but they don’t have a good exit system to know that they actually left the country. So, when you talk about enforcement of the law, obviously it doesn’t just work at the border when 35-40 percent of the people who are here illegally entered legally the border wasn’t relevant to that. Ah, and finally, I think most importantly, we need to have a clear statutory role for state and local government who choose to participate in enforcing our immigration laws and not all at the whim of one person, the President of the United States, as to whether or not those laws are going to be enforced. There’s a lot of lack of trust in enforcement of the law and, as a result of that, what we have is a system that people know is broken and they don’t have any faith that it can be fixed. But, it can be fixed if you don’t put all the trust in one person, and it’s not just the current President, previous President’s have made decisions to not enforce all of our immigration laws as well, but if it is up to state’s and localities and they can’t be kicked out of the program like Arizona was when they won part of a lawsuit against the Administration. I think you’d have growing confidence that you really could enforce our immigration clause.
HH: Now, Mr. Chairman, I know it’s not your Committee’s jurisdiction, [but] I had a long conversation on the air with Chairman [Mike] McCaul about this, and I’ve talked to a number of key members off air and on air, I think the House will do itself terrible damage if, whatever comes out of the House first, doesn’t have a mandatory thousand miles of double-sided fencing on the Mexican-American border. I know all the other stuff has got to happen too, but that double-sided, real, honest-to-God-high, long fence is the visible expression of an invisible resolve to control, not just our southern border, but internal [issues] and visas and everything else. Is that requirement, in your view, in your personal view –I know it’s not your Committee– necessary to any comprehensive bill coming forward?
BG: I think that having a secure border, and how long the fence is, and whether it’s a double fence or not, I am open to hearing arguments on both sides of that, but securing the border is definitely a major part of immigration reform and it’s got to be before any kind of legal status is granted to anyone whose in the country illegally today. We can’t make the same mistake that was made in 1986 when an easy pathway to citizenship was given to nearly three million people and then they said we’ll secure the border, we’ll have employment, employer sanctions and other things that were to go into effect, and as you know, all those things have been mainly in the talking and not in the doing.
HH: Well, that’s…
HH: That’s what so interesting…
BG: There’s got to be enforcement first.
HH: But, when my audience, and I think –Mark Levine is going to join me in hour three today to talk about his book The Liberty Amendments– and basically the entire center-right radio audience when they hear Republican Congressmen say “secure border and enforcement,” but not get specific about the length and height of the fence, they are afraid that they are getting conned. Now, you’ve got great credentials. People know that you are a conservative’s conservative, but I’m just here to relay whenever Republicans say “enforcement, strong border security” but they don’t get specific and I mean really specific –maps, construction demo, timetables, funding, “notwithstanding any other law,” across tribal lands– people just don’t believe it. Are you running into any of these skepticisms, because I’ll tell you, everyday I run in to that skepticism of Republicans, because they won’t commit to the fence.
BG: Well, I’m committed to the fence. I’ve already voted for it a number of times. I want to see it built. I think that is the jurisdiction of the Homeland Security Committee. I know there have been discussions about things that could be done, that could change that bill coming out of that Committee, but I’m going to defer to Chairman McCaul on that, but I will say this: That, that by itself, will not satisfy me because I know that there at least four million people who are here in the United States who entered legally.
HH: Oh, I agree with that. It’s a necessary…
BG: . . . nothing to do with that.
HH: [The fence] is a necessary, but not a sufficient condition to reform. Necessary, but not sufficient. Let me ask you about something…
BG: I agree with that. I agree with that.
HH: I think you have jurisdiction over it, which is the number of years, I’ve heard it referred, they’re going to go to call it “probationary status,” and the real question on many peoples’ minds are how many years on “probationary status” until the Green Card status, and are you having discussions that, and right now what’s it look like for your view?
BG: Well, first of all, from my standpoint, this is another major criticism I have with the Senate bill. I would not give what I call a special pathway to citizenship to anyone who’s illegally in the United States. I would not give them a status that people, who have for generations followed the law –and sometimes it takes them a decade or more to comply with the law– to legally immigrate to the United States. The Senate bill gives immediate legal status, ah, to 11 million people and then it has a long pathway to citizenship, at least 10 years before they can even apply for their Green Card, but it allows them to do that even though they do not have a family member who is already a United States citizen or permanent resident, a spouse, a employer who can show that they can’t find a U.S. citizen to fill the job.
In my opinion if you, after you have the borders secure and these enforcement mechanisms in place. If you were to do something, I would start first of all with children who were brought here illegally by their parents. They’ve grown up here. They’ve been educated here. They are ready to face the world and they have no documents. I think there’s a more compelling argument to be made for them. But, even for them, I would say that they get a legal status in the United States and not a pathway to citizenship that is created especially for them. In other words, they get that legal status if they have an employer who says I’ve got a job which I can’t find a U.S. citizen and I want to petition for them, ah, they can do that, but I wouldn’t give them the pathway to a Green Card and ultimately citizenship based simply on their entering the country illegally.
HH: Good, good clarity on that, Mr. Chairman, Bob Goodlatte from Virginia. Thank you, I’ll be right back, America, on the Hugh Hewitt Show.