VA Lawmakers React to Immigration Reform Passage

Jul 1, 2013

After passage in the Senate by a wide margin, immigration reform now moves to the U-S House. Here's a snapshot of what Virginia lawmakers are saying about it.  

A bipartisan group of eight senators crafted the comprehensive immigration bill the old-fashioned way: in a conference room with their sleeves rolled up. Not so in the House, where Republicans, like Virginia Congressman Randy Forbes, say the Senate's process isn't open enough.

"They have eight people that go in a room, smoke their cigarettes, talk and chat, and come out and tell the rest of the world what they re going to do."

Forbes says the House version of the bill promises to be properly vetted.

" One thing I can assure you is we will know what s in the bill before we pass it. We won t have to pass it to find out later. And so our bill will take a different tone than what the Senate s will do."

House Republican leaders are holding their own hearings and tackling immigration one issue at a time, starting with border security. Virginia Congressman Bob Goodlatte is heading up the effort in his role as the Chair of the Judiciary Committee.

“My approach has always been it’s important to do immigration reform but it’s most important to do it right and not repeat the mistakes of 1986.”

Goodlatte and other Republican leaders are being accused of trying to slow walk the reform effort. But Goodlatte denies the charge.

“We would like to solve all three major areas of immigration that are in need of reform: legal immigration reform, enforcement, and finding some legal status for those who are not legally here.”

The Senate passed its comprehensive reform package by a vote of 68 to 32. They were able to garner more G-O-P support by agreeing to send another 40,000 border patrol agents to the U-S/ Mexican border. Virginia Democratic Senator Mark Warner says the bill has the right balance.

“This is a much, much better system across the board from security, to the path to citizenship to the area that I have focused on which is the high skill workers. We’re going to have a stem visa we’re going to have an entrepreneur; we’re going to rationalize the H1V program. I think this is significant.”

But Goodlatte and other House Republicans are demanding even more border security components before they even deal with what to do with the estimated eleven million undocumented workers currently in the country. 

“Just throwing bodies at it does not solve the problem.”

Some Democrats say the piece-meal appro  Virginia Democratic Congressman Gerry Connolly says part of the difference is that senators have to appeal to voters across entire states.

"Here in the House it s the opposite. Republicans look at a two year time frame, they re in safe redistricted districts, where there is no pressure in many of these cases to do anything about immigration."

Conventional wisdom says there are already enough votes in the House to pass the Senate bill, but it would require a lot of Democratic votes. House Speaker John Boehner says he wants legislation that the majority of Republicans support. Connolly says the speaker is going to have to move from that position to get anything to the president’s desk.

“In order to pass anything he is going to have to allow the bill, or a bill or, a series of bills to come to the floor, and allow an overwhelming majority of Democrats, and a small sort of rump group of Republicans to pass it.”

Politics are never far from immigration reform. Virginia Democratic Senator Tim Kaine says the G-O-P has the most to lose if reform is blunted once again.

“People understood there was generally a party trying to fix the problem and a party trying to standing the way. That’s what’s encouraging about the Gang of Eight having significant Republican leadership right from the start.”

Lawmakers are off this week for the Fourth of July. When they return, all eyes will be watching to see if the House can muster enough votes to tackle immigration reform this year.