House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte On What Immigration Reform Might Look Like In The House
HH: Pleased to welcome for the first time to the Hugh Hewitt Show Congressman Robert Goodlatte. He is the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee. He represents Virginia’s 6th Congressional district. Chairman Goodlatte, welcome, it’s great to have you on the program today.
BG: Thank you, Hugh, it’s great to be with you and your listeners.
HH: Now Chairman, before we get into the immigration reform bill, I just have to ask how a Bates College guy ends up being, representing the historic Shenandoah Valley in Virginia.
BG: Well, because I went to law school at Washington & Lee University, which I have the honor of representing as well. My wife and I were married in Lee Chapel, where Robert E. Lee is buried. So that’s a little…
HH: Oh, okay, what an interesting thing on the day of Gettysburg. It’s the 150th anniversary to be talking about Robert E. Lee and the university that shares his name with George Washington. So that’s got to be a big week down in Washington & Lee land. So Mr. Chairman, I saw the weekend show, but for me, it was, they never let you talk enough. They interrupt you. And I would like you to kind of give the audience an idea of where you see immigration reform going when the Congress returns after the 4th of July holiday.
BG: Well, first of all, when we come back, we’re going to have a meeting of the Republican conference with our leadership and talk about exactly what a way forward is to solve this problem, not to buy into a Senate bill that is deeply flawed, and that would do exactly what we made the mistake of doing, I wasn’t there, but other people were, in 1986 when the Congress passed immigration reform. They said they were going to end the problem of illegal immigration by giving a pathway, an easy pathway to citizenship to three million people, and then they would put into effect all kinds of new measures to enforce the law, employer sanctions, stronger border enforcement. And none of that ever came to fruition. And so that’s what the Senate bill does now. It gives the legal status. It has a long pathway to citizenship, but it immediately gives a legal status to 11 million people. And then, it says, by the way, we’re going to fix the border, we’re going to have E-verify, we’re going to have an entry/exit visa system that works, we’re going to have other things that will prevent future illegal immigration. But it’s already starting. When people think that they have an opportunity to take advantage of a program like the one the Senate’s proposed, they’ve already started coming in. So we’ve got to have the enforcement first, and then some kind of legal status. In my opinion, it should not have a pathway to citizenship that would put them ahead of people who have gone through a long process, in some cases, to legally immigration to the United States through employment petitions or family-based petitions. These folks would get it just by virtue of having been unlawfully present in the United States. That is not a basis for immigration reform, in my opinion.
HH: Now Chairman Goodlatte, yesterday, I talked with your colleague, Trey Gowdy, who’s on the Immigration Subcommittee of the Judiciary Committee, and last week, I had on Senator Hoeven.
BG: And he does a great job as the Immigration chairman.
HH: Right. And last week, I had Senator Hoeven on, who’s the co-author of the Corker-Hoeven amendment. And I could agree with Congressman Gowdy, but not with Senator Hoeven that the fence gets built under the Senate bill. I just don’t think it does. I think it’s very, very important that that fence be done, and at least 700 miles of double-layered fencing with access roads. Is fencing an important part of your agenda for immigration reform along the southern border?
BG: It is important. That actually in the House is the jurisdiction of the Homeland Security Committee. I think the bill they have passed needs to take a look at some of the provisions that may have been added in the Senate bill. But it needs to better than the Senate bill. I think a lot of money is thrown at this problem in the Senate bill, and doesn’t solve it. But here’s the other part of this. 35-40% of the people who are here illegally today entered the country legally on visitor visas, business visas, student visas, visa waivers. And so the border is irrelevant to them. They came across through airports, through ports, through land crossings legally and simply overstayed their visas. and if that’s 35-40% of the 11 million, that’s four million or more people who that measure won’t even affect.
HH: Agreed. It’s just…
BG: So we’ve got to have interior enforcement. And the interior enforcement involving state and local government, involving not allowing the federal government to turn off the enforcement of immigration laws when they don’t like it, and having the state and local folks there say well, you know what, you may not like it, but we think it should be enforced in our state, that kind of thing needs to be a part of this as a check against presidents, and not just this president, but presidents who don’t enforce the law.
HH: I couldn’t agree more, but the fence is to me the visible expression of an invisible resolve. And if it doesn’t get built again, like it wasn’t built after the 2006 law, and if the House doesn’t lay out specs in mapping, and how high, how far and where, I just never think it’s a serious law. And that’s why I’m hoping that the House gets its act together with specifics about the fence. Let me ask you, Mr. Chairman, about a couple of things that have come up after the Senate bill as well. Eligibility for Obamacare, and it turns out that those who would be regularized under the Senate bill wouldn’t be eligible for Obamacare, which would make them more likely to be hired. But they appear to be eligible for the Earned Income Tax Credit upon regularization. Have you, do you think the Senate worked through all the ramifications of the various interaction of laws with the newly regularized resident?
BG: I really don’t think they did, Hugh. This bill was written after one hearing on this issue. We’ve held more than a dozen hearings just in the Judiciary Committee. Other committees have held hearings as well. We’re taking this as a step by step approach. We passed five different bills, considered hundreds of amendments, and we’re looking at each part of the whole problem carefully. And when you look at the legalization aspect, you’ve got to ask yourself is it fair to give various types of benefits to people who entered the country illegally? Now they don’t provide those during the time that they’re on the pathway to citizenship, but once they get a green card, or get citizenship, they would be eligible for things like Obamacare. And there are other things that I think they’ll get even before they get to that point. So I think a lot of work needs to be done to examine the consequences of the Senate bill before anything happens, rather than finding out afterwards like we did in 1986.
HH: Now earlier in my program, I was talking to former United States Senator Jon Kyl, also of the Judiciary Committee in the Senate, and deeply involved in immigration. And he scored the possibility of a bill this year at 50/50. He really doesn’t see it happening, but he does say, eventually, when it goes to conference, everything can be rewritten. Bill Kristol and I are worried, Chairman Goodlatte, that the conference will get hijacked, and that the pressure will come to bear. How does the house of Representatives prevent its work, careful, deliberative work, from being hijacked by a conference committee?
BG: Well, here’s where the leadership in the House is obviously very, very important. And the Speaker and others in the leadership are aware that every single member of the Republican conference is asking that very question. What is this going to look like at the end of the day? We don’t want a bill that’s passed with a small number of Republicans and a lot or all the Democrats in the House voting for it, which is what happened with the Senate bill. 70% of the Republicans in the Senate voted against it. But Republicans are in the majority in the House. So we have a responsibility to pass a bill not just through the House, but a final product that can get a majority of the Republicans in the House supporting it. And the Speaker has acknowledged that, and he said that again just a few days ago. But that’s why this meeting on July 10th is so important, because we do have a problem here that needs to be fixed. And if you did it right, it would be well worth fixing. But if you do it wrong, you make the problem even worse. And that’s what members want to know. And that’s what we want to know when we meet with all of the members of the House Republican conference. What are they willing to do to solve this problem? And that’s why that meeting is so important. We won’t make any final decisions based on that meeting, but that will help us know what kind of consensus we can build around. And when once we have that, we should stick by that consensus, and not say oh, well, we’ll go this far, and then we’ll let Democrats carry it the rest of the way.
HH: Well, then, a last question, Mr. Chairman, what happens if you get that consensus, and let’s say the consensus is we want, you know, a thousand miles of fence, and we want E-verify, and we don’t want the Earned Income Tax Credit, whatever it is, but you get to conference, and then the whole media in the United States begins to pound on you guys and out comes a bill that a majority of the House Republicans don’t want? Do you think it can be stopped from getting to the floor, because every Democrat would be in favor of it?
BG: Yes, well, yes, and here’s why. First of all, it’s really important who the Speaker appoints to the conference. It’s really important that those people do their job in the conference. I would hope at chairman of the Judiciary Committee, I’d be one of them. It’s really important that members of the conference not sign a bill that doesn’t have the support of the significant majority of the Republicans in the House. And then finally, even if it does, the Speaker still controls the floor, and he can refuse to bring a bill to the floor that doesn’t have majority Republican support. And that’s what he committed to do just a few days ago. So I think we’ll hear more about that when we have this meeting on July 10th. The other thing is the timing of this. We should do this, and we should bring it to the floor, and we should bring it to conference when we have it right, not on the President’s timetable, or the Senate’s timetable. And that’s what we’re committed to do. I know there’s lots of intense interest in this issue, but it is far more important that we get it right than if we get it done quickly.
HH: Chairman Bob Goodlatte from Virginia, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, thanks for joining me on this special week. Have a great 4th of July, Chairman.
End of interview.