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Goodlatte on Immigration Reform: We’ll Try, But if We Fail, That’s Okay; We’ll Blame the Democrats, They’ll Blame Us, and That’s Okay We’ll Offer Legal Status, But Citizenship Only to Some, and That’s Okay

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Boehner Better Not Be Relying on This Guy to Get Immigration Reform Done 

Is Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) trying to blow up immigration reform?  Sure looks that way to us.  At a town hall held in his Western Virginia district last evening, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) showed why the House Republican leadership should not rely on him to be the legislative point person on immigration reform.

Here are key takeaways and implications of Rep. Goodlatte’s comments:

  • Rep. Goodlatte seems prepared and comfortable with getting to “no” on immigration.  According to Elise Foley at Huffington Post, Rep. Goodlatte said, “Even if it [immigration reform] doesn’t go all the way through to be signed by this president – because I have a hard time, like you do, envisioning him signing some of those things – it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t at least show the American people that we are interested in solving this very serious problem that we have in our country.”  Translation?  Despite the fact that a majority of the public and a bipartisan majority of House members back reform with a path to citizenship, Rep. Goodlatte seems to accept that the House will get to “no.”  Why would he desire such an outcome?  Because he hates the bipartisan Senate bill, doesn’t want to get into a negotiation with the Senate – which could lead to a comprehensive approach he opposes – and he wants to position the Republicans to be competitive in the blame game that would follow reform’s demise.  If we’re right, he wants to pretend to want to get reform done, he wants to get a majority of House Republicans to agree with his bills, and then, when Democrats say it’s not good enough, try to blame them for “blocking reform” – as if the GOP is ever going to win a blame game on immigration reform.
  • Speaker Boehner beware:  Many reform advocates, from across the spectrum, believe that Speaker Boehner and others in the House leadership truly want to get reform done this year, want it done in a way that balances the concerns of Republicans and Democrats and want to get the issue behind them so the GOP can begin to regain its competitiveness with Latinos, Asians and other voters that make up the “coalition of the ascendant.”  But he has to choose what horses to bet on: the bipartisan Group of 7, which has struggled to put out its own comprehensive bill, or Chairman Goodlatte and Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy (R-SC), who head the committees of jurisdiction.  Earlier this year, the Group of 7 seemed to be the favored option.  Now it’s not so clear.  Well, Speaker Boehner should be very careful.  If he wants reform and Goodlatte is the horse he backs, he’s likely to end up with no legislative result and plenty of hollow excuses.
  • Rep. Goodlatte wrong on undocumented immigrants’ desire for citizenship vs. “permanent underclass” status: With respect to undocumented immigrants in America, Rep. Goodlatte has moved.  He now favors legal status for most and citizenship for some – especially kids and those with family and employment claims.  But if most are going to be ineligible for the full rights and  responsibilities of citizenship, how does he justify this exclusion?  By claiming that for “a great many people who are not lawfully here, the main thing they want is to be lawfully here.”  Translation?  Rep. Goodlatte believes his “permanent underclass” alternative to citizenship for most is actually what undocumented immigrants want.  However, April 2013 polling of Latino undocumented immigrants conducted by Latino Decisions found that a full 87% of undocumented immigrants expressed their intention to become a U.S. citizen if immigration reform passes.  Moreover, it’s difficult to see how the GOP rehabilitates its image with Latino voters by telling Latino immigrants we want you to work for us, we just don’t want you to be one of us.