Pamela Rivera, 26, told him that’s an “incredibly difficult question to answer.” Her parents always put their children’s needs before their own, but she wants her entire family treated the same. She would oppose such legislation.
“I certainly understand that you would not want them to have to make that decision,” Goodlatte said in a matter-of-fact way seeming to lack emotion. “But Congress must make that decision.”
As chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Goodlatte is the designated gatekeeper for much of the immigration-related legislation coursing through Congress, giving him the opportunity to exert great influence over what could be the country’s most expansive reform in a generation.
He brings deep experience to the job, having worked for years as an immigration lawyer and helping people from more than 70 countries immigrate to the United States — legally. He has a rare, and more skeptical, view on the immigration debate roiling the nation.
Goodlatte doubts that the United States can fully implement a sweeping reform like the one passed in the Senate this summer. Instead, he takes on issues one by one.
“Good legislation comes through a deliberative process,” he said, “and not through what’s the latest thing blowing through in the wind.”
While other House members have tried to draft a comprehensive immigration plan, Goodlatte’s committee has quietly and efficiently approved four smaller bills, including a controversial one that would give state and local agencies the power to enforce immigration laws and create their own policies. His latest venture is crafting legislation that would provide legal status to those who were brought into the country illegally as children — which was the topic of a subcommittee hearing Tuesday afternoon.
Although Goodlatte has spent much of his career working on immigration issues, it was often not something he sought out.
Fresh out of Washington and Lee University’s law school in the late 1970s, Goodlatte got a job in his congressman’s district office and worked on immigration issues. Application after application, Goodlatte learned the intricacies of immigration law and its accompanying frustrations. When he opened his own law firm, immigration quickly and unexpectedly made up half of his business.