Goodlatte reverses statement on amnesty, again

Neil Munro | White House Correspondent

House judiciary chairman Rep. Bob Goodlatte has reposted a statement opposing an immigration amnesty that had been previously removed from his website.

His reversal came two days after the Republican’s base reacted to the news that he had dropped his language against amnesty.

On Saturday, his staff re-revised his website, which now says, “I remain opposed to amnesty, as I always have been. I do not support a special pathway to citizenship that rewards those who have broken our immigration laws.”

“Congressman Goodlatte’s website is updated periodically and unfortunately during an update early last year, his position on amnesty was inadvertently deleted,” a Goodlatte aide told The Daily Caller. “However, he is opposed to amnesty and always has been.”

The restored language is a small symbolic defeat for the progressives and business groups pressuring the GOP to help sharply increase the supply of cheap immigrant labor, and comes just nine days before a critical GOP strategy meeting.

But Goodlatte’s retreat is only symbolic, because his new language is weaker than his prior language. In April 2013, for example, his website declared that “we must crack down on illegal immigration and enforce our current immigration laws … [and] we must not grant amnesty to individuals who have broken our laws.”

Also, his new language leaves room for amnesty-like alternatives, such as the award of work-permits and residency — but not a citizenship option — to some or all of the 12 million illegal immigrants in the United States. On Sunday, for example, Goodlatte suggested that an immigration deal could allow illegals to stay and compete for jobs against Americans.

“I see no reason why we can’t also have an agreement that shows how people who are not lawfully here can be able to be lawfully here — able to live here, work here,” Goodlatte told the pro-immigration interviewing on the Spanish-language TV channel, Telemundo.

Goodlatte has already won approval from his judiciary committee for a bill that would allow employers to bring in 500,000 foreign guest-workers a year just for jobs in the agriculture and food industries, such as animal slaughterhouses. His district in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley includes an influential poultry industry that relies heavily on low-wage immigrants.

Under current rules, employers can hire roughly 50,000 foreign temporary agriculture workers annually.

Goodlatte’s website mentions his support for increased foreign hiring. “The House Judiciary Committee, which I chair, has held numerous hearings on our immigration laws, and we have already passed several stand-alone bills that address particular issues, like enforcement of immigration laws and guest worker programs, within our immigration system.”

The agriculture-worker bill is also being criticized by left-wing groups as unfair for workers.

The Senate’s plan, passed in June, would allow the government to award green cards to 33 million new immigrants, and work-permits to roughly 13 million guest-workers, during the next 10 years.

That’s more workers than the roughly 28 million teenagers in the United States. Roughly 20 million Americans are unemployed or underemployed, and wages have been stagnant for decades for most Americans.

GOP leaders are under intense pressure from Wall Street donors and business backers to support an amnesty and to increase the current annual inflow of one million immigrants and 650,000 non-agricultural guest-workers.

The GOP leadership is expected to unveil their immigration strategy Jan. 24 at the party’s three-day, closed-door strategy meeting at the Greenbriar Resort in West Virginia.

A group of conservative and centrist GOP legislators are already working to highlight the impact of increased immigration on American workers.

Opponents of guest-worker programs say they’re worried that the GOP leadership will use the meeting to stampede GOP representatives into backing a set of immigration “principles” that could be later used to cajole them into supporting unpopular bills. The principles are being written with the aid of Rebecca Tallent, a long-time advocate for increased immigrant labor who was recently hired away from the business-backed Bipartisan Policy Center.

Low-wage immigrant labor provide a critical extra supply of cheap workers for coastal companies seeking to minimize costs and maximize productivity.

But polls show the effort to bring in foreign workers is unpopular, even among many of the people willing to back a conditional amnesty for the 12 million illegals. The negative reaction is backed by studies and reports, such as a June report by the Congressional Budget Office that said the Senate’s planned increase would shift more of the nation’s income away from workers and towards investors.

The opposition has hurt GOP advocates. For example, Sen. Marco Rubio’s support among his home-state voters and among the GOP base crashed last year after he led the effort to pass the Senate bill.

Rubio “is getting destroyed! By Mark Levin, by Rush Limbaugh, and a few others,” pollster Frank Luntz said in April. “He’s trying to find a … solution to immigration that isn’t the traditional Republican approach, and talk radio is killing him,” he added.

For the moment, political polls show the GOP’s base is eager to vote in the mid-term elections, and swing voters are also supportive.

Democrats, however, plan to regain support from voters by arguing that the GOP is unfair to workers, and by pushing for a raised $10.10 minimum wage.

President Barack Obama is also campaigning on the poll-tested claim that GOP policies have expanded the wealth gap between rich and poor since 2000. Many voters and journalists are eager to believe that claim, partly because of the GOP’s image as friendly to big business.

However, immigration reformers say that large-scale immigration is widening the wealth gap. The wealth gap widened by only 2.4 points in the 36 states with the lowest rate of immigration, but grew by by 4.2 points in the 15 states with the highest levels of immigration, from 2000 to 2010, according to an April 2013 report by FAIR.

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