House opens first immigration hearing

WASHINGTON — The chairman of the House Judiciary Committee said Tuesday the nation’s immigration system is “in desperate need of repair” as he opened Congress’ first hearing this year on immigration. Whether Congress will be able to agree on how to fix it remained unclear.

The session came as President Barack Obama pushes for swift action to pass immigration legislation and as bipartisan Senate negotiators work to craft a bill. But in a sign of the difficulties to come, the Judiciary chairman, Republican Bob Goodlatte of Virginia, cautioned against a “rush to judgment” and said each piece of the issue must be examined in detail.

Goodlatte said there are lots of questions about how any large-scale legalization program would work, how much it would cost and how it would prevent illegal immigration in future.

Obama supports a pathway to citizenship for 11 million illegal immigrants already in the country, something many Republicans oppose.

Goodlatte questioned whether another approach might be possible: “Are there options we should consider between the extremes of mass deportation and a pathway to citizenship for those not lawfully present in the United States?” he asked.

His question underscored the discomfort of many majority House Republicans with granting eventual citizenship to illegal immigrants, something conservatives often decry as amnesty.

At one point the hearing was interrupted by protesters, apparently young illegal immigrants known as “DREAMers” brought to the country as children, who shouted “undocumented and unafraid!” before being led out.

Yet Tuesday’s hearing, which focused on fixing the legal immigration system and on enforcement, was notable for the generally measured tone from some Republicans known for strong anti-immigration positions.

Several questioned whether there’s a way short of citizenship to deal with illegal immigrants, and others on the panel agreed on the need to allow more high-skilled workers to enter the country, a priority for technology companies.

“Let’s not let the more contentious issues and the idea of comprehensive reform prevent us from passing something,” said Rep. Spencer Bachus, R-Ala.

It was part of a larger shift by Republicans who have begun to embrace action on immigration reform in the wake of the November elections in which large proportions of Hispanic voters supported Obama, helping him win re-election. Some GOP leaders have concluded that softening their views on immigration is becoming a political necessity.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., delivered a speech Tuesday embracing “an opportunity for legal residence and citizenship for those who were brought to this country as children and who know no other home.” It appeared to be a change for Cantor, who voted against DREAM Act legislation to allow a path to citizenship for certain immigrants brought here as youths.

More in Local News

Man shot dead after argument at bar south of Everett

Police say an employee of the bar shot and killed the man, who had opened fire in the parking lot.

Suspect sought in two Everett bank robberies

He’s described as 5-foot-10 to 6-foot-1, with dark hair and a goatee, and may have a neck tattoo.

They check tickets, help riders, sometimes get screamed at

13 sheriff’s deputies (so far) patrol Community Transit’s fleet of nearly 300 buses.

Three teens arrested for Marysville school vandalism

Windows were broken and a trash bin was on fire Sunday night at a Marysville middle school.

Alaska Airlines to announce Paine Field destinations Tuesday

The Snohomish County airport’s passenger terminal is slated to see flights this fall.

Langley mayor threatens newspaper with lawsuit

The mayor threatened to sue the paper over claims he withheld public records disclosure information.

Two missing men found, one alive and one dead

The man found alive was found in an apartment across the hallway and taken to a hospital.

Community Health Center opening its seventh clinic

The nonprofit is dedicated to providing care for low-income and uninsured patients.

Gun control debate flares anew in Olympia

A two-hour hearing covered a package of gun-related legislation.

Most Read