GOP leader reveals strategy for immigration bill push

The GOP’s leadership will try to persuade GOP legislators to back an immigration plan that includes tighter enforcement, an effective amnesty for 12 million people and more immigrant workers, according to House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte.

“We’re trying to find a way to give the members of the House a way to see how all these things would work in our step by step approach. … Finding a way to build that consensus is critical,” Goodlatte told an interviewer Sunday on the Spanish-language Telemundo network.

But Goodlatte acknowledged deep GOP opposition to the plan, and indicated that the leadership won’t push a plan in the face of broad opposition in the caucus.

“We have to have something where a sizable majority of Republicans can support it,” he said.

GOP legislators will likely be pressed to support the series of immigration bills at a closed-door strategy session in Maryland, late in January.

However, Goodlatte and the interviewer, Jose Diaz-Balart — the brother of Florida GOP Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart — largely ignored the most contentious issue, which is industry’s demand for an increased inflow of foreign low-wage workers.

The Senate’s June bill would triple legal immigration over the next decade, by awarding green cards to 33 million immigrants and work permits to roughly 13 million guest workers. That influx would be larger than the 28 million teenagers in the country, and also larger than the pool of 20 million unemployed and underemployed Americans.

Any House bill would have to be merged with the demands of Senate Democrats before it could be signed by Obama. The president and his aides have said an immigration increase is one of his highest second-term priorities.

Goodlatte has won committee approval for a bill that would allow food-industry companies to hire 500,000 guest-workers a year.

Since last year, influential business donors — such as Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg — and progressive advocates have played up the unpopular amnesty issue, so minimizing media coverage of the very unpopular effort to increase low-wage immigrant labor.

The political obstacles described by Goodlatte include intense public suspicion of President Barack Obama’s willingness to enforce parts of any immigration deal that he does not like.

“There have been — not just with this president — but a history of presidents not enforcing our immigration laws,” he said.

There “has to be an agreement that there’s not going to be a future wave of illegal immigration. … That is difficult to bring together,” he said, citing the 1986 amnesty bill that yielded three million legal immigrants and many millions of illegal immigrants.