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A Hardliner Poses as a Reformer – Until the Truth Outs
As Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) has positioned himself to be a key player on immigration policy. He’s the head of the lead committee of jurisdiction, he has championed a number of piecemeal bills and he has adopted a softer, gentler tone. He seems to enjoy the confidence of Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH), and he’s talked a pretty good game about policy. This has given rise to speculation that perhaps the former hardliner is the key to getting bipartisan immigration reform done this year.
For example, in an interview with Alan Gomez of USA Today published in July, Rep. Goodlatte called himself “open-minded to the idea” that undocumented immigrants “should have a way to come out of the shadows, to be able to work, to have their own businesses, to pay their taxes, to travel back and forth to their home country and elsewhere…All of those are ways that they could then eventually find themselves permanent residents and ultimately citizens, but none of those are special ways that have been made available only to people who are here illegally.”
But, this past week, Goodlatte reverted to his old ways. He made it clear he opposes a path to citizenship for the vast majority of undocumented immigrants, including for DREAMers. He signaled his intention to get to “no” on reform, expressing a desire to pretend to want a substantive fix more than actually wanting it. And he continues to champion the hardline SAFE Act: Draconian, Arizona-like legislation that, in the words of the New York Times, would turn millions of undocumented immigrants “into criminals overnight.”
Then, yesterday, he took another two giant steps backwards.
First, he decided to be a shill for Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL) regarding the trumped up “asylum abuse at the border” story. As Roll Call reports, Rep. Goodlatte plans hearings – and presumably legislation – regarding the right-wing trope that Mexicans are falsely claiming asylum in order “to game the system by getting a free pass into the U.S. and a court date that they do not plan to show up for.” It doesn’t seem to matter that the claim does not hold up under scrutiny. As Ted Hesson of ABC News noted in a fact check piece, there are “plenty of reasons to be skeptical of this report…” But, hey, if Sessions wants to make it a big deal in hopes of derailing reform, who’s his go-to guy in the House? Goodlatte.
Then we learned that Rep. Goodlatte declined an invitation from one of the leading champions of reform, Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL), to hold a joint bipartisan town hall on immigration in Goodlatte’s district. Rep. Gutierrez has been bending over backwards to make friends with gettable Republicans. He held a similar event with Rep. David Valladao (R-CA) and it was a huge success for Valladao. But, then, Valladao supports immigration reform with a path to citizenship and wants reform to pass this year.
Should we be surprised? Not really. Goodlatte has long been a champion of the nativist right. In 2010, for example, the virulently anti-immigrant organization Numbers USA bestowed a “Blue Ribbon” on Goodlatte for being “5-for-5″ on cosponsoring each of their “5 Great Immigration-Reduction Bills.” Numbers USA also gave Goodlatte an A+ rating – one of only 15 House members to be so honored. Among the five bills he championed, one would reinterpret the U.S. Constitution to deny citizenship to the children of undocumented immigrants and another would authorize state and local police to ask anyone they suspect of being in the country without papers for proof of citizenship.
According to Frank Sharry of America’s Voice:
Memo to Speaker Boehner and Republican leaders: If you want to get to yes on immigration reform, then say no to Bob Goodlatte. Based on the past week, it seems like Goodlatte cares more about earning another Numbers USA Blue Ribbon than delivering the kind of common sense immigration reform that a bipartisan majority in the House would vote for, and that the GOP needs to survive as a national party.”