We already know Rep. Jeff Denham (R-CA) as one of the House GOPers who supports immigration reform with a path to citizenship. As a Republican from California, Denham understands why our nation needs immigrants, and why Republicans can’t be the party blocking a policy supported by the vast majority of Latino voters (and the vast majority of Americans at large).
Last Sunday, Rep. Denham went on Al Punto with Jorge Ramos to talk about his support for immigration reform and citizenship, and discussed why the House needs to act on immigration reform now.
Watch the video here. Transcript follows below:
JR: Congressman Denham, thank you so much for talking to us.
JD: Oh, thanks for having me.
JR: And Congressman, so do you think you could be defined as a Republican who would vote for immigration reform in the House?
JD: I think we have to have immigration reform. This is something that is not only important to the entire country, but certainly from an area like mine in California. It’s what keeps our economy going, and you know, keeps our district going as well.
JR: So are you in a difficult position? I know that 40 percent of the population in your district are Hispanics. And as you know too, the majority of Latinos would like to see an immigration reform. So do you think you’re being pressured to support immigration reform because of your constituency?
JD: No, not all. I mean we are elected to be representatives of our community. Certainly I am going back to my district hearing a lot of feedback. But it’s also a personal issue for me as well. You know, one of the greatest joys that I’ve had is helping my father-in-law gain citizenship. So it’s personal but it’s also something that if we’re going to look at the overall country, if we’re going to look at improving our economy, creating more jobs, getting our fiscal House in order here in Washington, D.C. immigration has to be a part of that.
JR: Okay, fantastic. So let me try to get into the specifics of what your position is. So you would favor the legislation of the majority of the 11 million undocumented immigrants in this country, right?
JD: Absolutely. We need to earn legal status to get people out of the shadows. We also have to address the 2-1/2 plus million, the kids that have come here to no fault of their own, that have no country to back to, that have been educated in our schools. We need a special pathway for them as well.
JR: Alright. So okay, so we agree on the legalization process. What about the path to citizenship. I’ve read a couple things in which it was not very clear to me what your position is. So you think that the undocumented immigrants should have the right or the possibility to become U.S. citizens?
JD: Absolutely. The first step is obviously making sure that we’re bringing people out of the shadows today, so that we have legal status to have jobs, to be part of our economy, more importantly to be part of our community. So that’s the first step. But then it’s making sure that we’re paying back taxes, fees, as well as speaking English. The things that are in that Senate bill already, I think there’s a good compromise to be had between the two Houses.
JR: Now what is going to be happening? As you know, Speaker John Boehner, he doesn’t want to bring to a vote immigration reform. Many Republicans as you would be willing to vote for immigration reform, but you might not get the chance. What’s going to happen? Do you think we might have a chance to have immigration reform this year?
JD: Absolutely. Speaker Boehner, as well as leadership have already been scheduling when we’re going to have floor time on immigration. We have top to bottom approach to address all aspects of immigration. And we’re going to see a couple more bills that will continue to come out. We need both parties to actually present bills on addressing the overall immigration system. But we expect over the next couple weeks to have a specific bill just on kids, making sure that they have a pathway. But we’ve got to address a top to bottom approach of all aspects of immigration. From border security to legalization, as well as making sure that we’ve got internal security as well.
JR: So what you’re telling, you think we’ll have time this year to discuss all the issues related to immigration reform? And have immigration reform probably debated and never shed any conference before the end of the year?
JD: Absolutely. We need to. For the greatness of America we’ve got to have immigration reform that makes sense, that works, that addresses our current problems today. But also addresses our problems for the future. This is something I want to address once in Congress over my lifetime, and fix it for my kids and future generations.