Should the U.S. government grant citizenship or at least permanent legal status to the children of undocumented immigrants? The House Judiciary Committee plans to take up the issue at a hearing next week that could prove critical in how the House addresses immigration reform in the coming weeks.
Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) announced the hearing Wednesday, saying that it's part of his plans to write a bill with House Majority Leader Eric I. Cantor (R-Va.) and others regarding how to deal with the children of immigrants.
"These children came here through no fault of their own and many of them know no other home than the United States," Goodlatte said, adding that "This is one component of immigration reform -- any successful reform plan 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."
Aides stressed once again Wednesday that Goodlatte and Cantor haven't written a bill, don't know when they plan to introduce it and haven't selected a lead sponsor for the legislation.
Last year the Obama administration said it would defer the deportations of hundreds of thousands of so-called "DREAMers," or the children of undocumented immigrants who entered the U.S. without legal permission before the age of 16. Federal authorities have approved the applications of some 400,000 people seeking to stay in the country since the change in policy last year. Those people were the subject of the DREAM Act, a Democratic-backed proposal that was defeated in 2010 that would have eventually granted those children U.S. citizenship if they met certain educational or military service requirements.
Elements of the DREAM Act were included in the bipartisan Senate immigration bill approved last month.
Congressional Democrats have said that Republicans will need to address the so-called "path to citizenship" for the nation's undocumented immigrants in order to begin negotiations with the Senate over an immigration bill. And President Obama told reporters Tuesday that he would veto any House bill that didn't include plans to establish ways for undocumented immigrants to become U.S. citizens or at least to obtain a permanent legal status.