WASHINGTON — At a House subcommittee hearing Tuesday lawmakers considered a proposal to offer a pathway to citizenship for immigrants brought to the United States as children.
“When children wander into neighborhood yards, we don’t call that trespassing. When children cry and yell and scream at restaurants or on airplanes, we don’t call that a violation of the noise ordinance,” South Carolina Republican Rep. Trey Gowdy, chairman of the Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security, said at the outset of the hearing on “Addressing the Immigration Status of Illegal Immigrants Brought to the United States as Children.”
“When children eat a grape at the grocery store or eat a piece of candy waiting in line before mom or dad pays for it we don’t have them arrested for petty larceny,” he added. “Children can’t sign contracts, vote, purchase certain items, or even work in some instances because the law treats children differently.”
Majority Leader Eric Cantor and House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte have reportedly been working on legislation to offer a path to legalization for illegal immigrants brought to the United States as children, set to be called the Kids Act.
“There is another class of unlawfully present aliens – a class of individuals who deserve to be considered from a different perspective,” Goodlatte said at the hearing. “I am talking about aliens brought here as children by their parents. They had no input into their parents’ decision to bring the family to the U.S. illegally. And many of them know no other home than the United States, having grown up as Americans since they were toddlers in some instances. They surely don’t share the culpability of their parents.”
Democratic members of the panel took issue with the idea that the House might not extend a more comprehensive path, one that does not assist the parents of the children who might be legalized.
“We want to tell the DREAM Act children that they can stay, but we don’t know about your parents, your sisters and brothers,” Texas Democratic Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee said. “What value is it if tell DREAM Act children that they can stay, but we tell them not to honor their mothers and fathers.”
“Legalizing only the DREAMers is not enough,” Illinois Democratic Rep. Luis Gutierrez said, testifying as a witness.
“[DREAMers] will not settle for what is good for them unless they can also win what is good for their families,” he added.
Iowa Republican Rep. Steve King, on the other hand, expressed concern about the relatively one-sided nature of the witnesses and the fact that there was not yet language of a bill to consider.
“We don’t have a bill before us, ladies and gentleman, so we can’t look at the language of the bill and take a position on that language. We are here today examining the concept, the philosophy of a potential bill that’s not yet before us. This is the opposite order of the way we usually conduct business,” he said, wondering aloud if the proposal could be a way to “backdoor amnesty.”
“I think what’s on course here … is we’ll just do this little sliver here because this one tugs at our heart. It tugs at my heart too, but I listen to the subcommittee chairman speaking and he says he wants a remedy that will last a lifetime,” King said. “I think we have a higher responsibility than that. I think we have to preserve the rule of law so that this country can last for many many generations in the future, not our lifetime but the lifetime of the United States of America.”
Moments before King spoke, Florida Democratic Rep. Joe Garcia chastised King for comments he made to NewsMax last week.
“When members of this committee, when members of this house, use inflammatory language. Use offensive language, it does not help the process,” Garcia said.
“When members of this house use language such as ‘for everyone that is a valedictorian, there is another 100 out there who weigh 130 lbs — and they’ve got hands the size of cantaloupes because they’re hauling 75 pounds of marijuana across the desert,’ is offensive.”
King did not acknowledge Garcia’s comments.
Update, 7:30: After the hearing, the Chris Crane, president of an Immigration and Customs Enforcement union, called on House members to work with ICE officers as they move forward with their proposal.
“We already have a DREAM Act implemented by the White House, and it’s a miserable failure. It cannot effectively be enforced, encourages fraud, and places public safety at risk,” Crane said. “The Administration’s DREAM Act is not being applied by ICE to children in schools, but instead to adult inmates in jails. Gang members and other criminal offenders all take advantage of the Administration’s DREAM Act orders to evade arrest and deportation. Representatives in the House must take aggressive measures to ensure that the many failures of the DREAM Act we already have are not repeated.”