Immigration reform’s chances in the House are looking bleaker after one of the top Republicans tasked with shepherding a bill to passage ruled out a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), chair of the Judiciary Committee that will mark up any House legislation on the issue, told NPR this week that he will not support a bill that eventually grants citizenship for the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants in America.
“People have a pathway to citizenship right now: It’s to abide by the immigration laws, and if they have a family relationship, if they have a job skill that allows them to do that, they can obtain citizenship,” Goodlatte said. “But simply someone who broke the law, came here, [to] say, ‘I’ll give you citizenship now,’ that I don’t think is going to happen.”
The so-called “path to citizenship” is a centerpiece of legislation proposed by the White House and by a bipartisan Senate group working on the issue. Both plans would allow undocumented immigrants to first gain a provisional legal status that lets them work, then apply for a green card and eventually citizenship after learning English, U.S. history, and civics, and paying fines and back taxes. Under the White House’s plan, immigrants would likely have to wait at least eight years before they could apply for a green card and another five years for citizenship. A bipartisan group of representatives in the House are working on their own comprehensive bill, but have yet to offer any indication that they’ve resolved the citizenship issue.
Democrats, Latino groups, and labor organizations backing reform have warned that they will not support any comprehensive bill that does not provide a legal route to citizenship, saying alternatives would create a permanent underclass. But House Republicans on the Judiciary Committee like Goodlatte have expressed strong skepticism about the idea. If they don’t drop their objections at some point, it’s unlikely Congress will pass a law this session.