House GOP leaders crafting a plan for children in the U.S. illegally

Two weeks after the Senate passed sweeping immigration reform, leaders in the House are trying to figure out how to do the same.
July 12, 2013

Top House Republicans are beginning to work on legislation that would establish ways for the children of undocumented immigrants to become legal residents and possibly U.S. citizens.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (Va.) and House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (Va.) are devising the plan, but they have yet to write legislative language, aides say.

On the surface, they seem to be embracing the spirit of the Democratic-backed Dream Act that was defeated in December 2010 and the language regarding the children of undocumented immigrants that was included in the bipartisan Senate immigration bill that was approved last month. Both of those proposals would set such children on a course for legal residency or citizenship if they met certain educational or military service requirements.

Cantor and Goodlatte voted against the Dream Act when it came under consideration in the House.

Goodlatte said in a statement Friday that he is working with Cantor “on a bill to provide a legal status to those who were brought illegally to the U.S. as children by their parents. These children came here through no fault of their own and many of them know no other home than the United States.”

But, he added, the bill was just one component of the House’s ongoing review of immigration laws, an effort that “must improve our legal immigration programs, strengthen border security and the interior enforcement of our immigration laws, and find a way to fairly deal with those who are currently in the country unlawfully.”

Cantor has been eager to address the status of children of illegal immigrants, and in a February speech at the American Enterprise Institute, he said Congress “must balance respect for the rule of law and respect for those waiting to enter this country legally, with care for the people and families, most of whom just want to make a better life, and contribute to America.”

“A good place to start is with the kids,” Cantor said. “One of the great founding principles of our country was that children would not be punished for the mistakes of their parents. It is time to provide an opportunity for legal residence and citizenship for those who were brought to this country as children and who know no other home.”

Aides said Friday that Cantor and Goodlatte haven’t decided when to introduce the bill or who might co-sponsor it and shepherd it through the House.

Ed O’Keefe is a congressional reporter with The Washington Post and covered the 2008 and 2012 presidential and congressional elections.
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