Top House Republicans say they are open to the idea of allowing Dreamers to be put on a path to citizenship, but not their parents.
They expressed this sentiment at a House Judiciary subcommittee hearing held Tuesday to address the immigration status of undocumented youth who’ve been in the United States ever since they were children.
“They had no input into their parents’ decision to bring the family to the U.S. illegally,” said House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) at the packed hearing. “Many of them know no other home than the United States, having grown up as Americans since they were toddlers in some instances. They surely don’t share the culpability of their parents.”
Goodlatte and Majority Leader Eric Cantor are working on legislation that would provide a path to citizenship for Dreamers. They’re calling it the KIDS Act.
The two Republicans’ support for Dreamers and legislation that would allow them to become U.S. citizens comes as a surprise for many. That’s because they both voted in 2010 against the DREAM Act, legislation similar to what the two Republican congressmen are proposing. They also voted last month to defund the deferred action program for undocumented youth announced by President Barack Obama last summer.
Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.), who chairs the House Judiciary subcommittee, also said he supports allowing Dreamers — but not their parents — a chance to become citizens, saying:
“Attempts to group the entire 11 million into one homogenous group in an effort to secure a political remedy will only wind up hurting the most vulnerable.”
Dreamer: My mother deserves a path to citizenship too
Rosa Velasquez, a 30-year-old Dreamer who testified at the hearing, said she was pleased to see more House Republicans starting to speak out in support of Dreamers and their plight. However, she vowed to not leave her mother behind.
“When members of Congress tell me that I deserve the opportunity to earn citizenship and my mother doesn’t, I tell them that if anyone deserves that opportunity to earn citizenship it’s my mother, Rosalinda,” she said. “My mother did what any mother facing uncertainty would’ve done — provide a better life for her children.”
Velasquez’s mother was 22 years old when she decided to seek better opportunities for her two children in the U.S., so the three of them boarded a plane and entered the country using tourist visas. They’ve made Arkansas their home for the past 25 years, now.
Velasquez said it is because of her mother’s “hardworking hands” that she has been able to pursue her dreams of going to college. Now, she wants Congress to not leave her mother behind when it comes to passing immigration reform legislation. She made that clear in her testimony Tuesday:
“If Congress were to adopt an incomplete solution that would provide a path to earned citizenship to Dreamers like me but something less for our parents, it would be like saying that I can now be like you but my parents can never be — that our hardworking parents are good enough to pick up your crops, to babysit your children, to landscape your yards, but they will never be treated as equal members of society.”
Rep. Luis Gutierrez, who sits on the House Judiciary Committee, had a similar message. He said having House Republicans expressing support for a path to citizenship for Dreamers is a sign of “compromise” and “a step in the right direction” but added that it’s not enough.
“It would not be enough given the years and decades of all the hard work and equities that millions of immigrants have built in this country,” he said. “It would not be enough to satisfy the intense hunger for legality and the desire to pledge allegiance to this country because so many want to one day be able to say ‘I’m an American citizen.’”
Path to citizenship would ‘sacrifice the rule of law’
Not all House Republicans spoke in support of a path to citizenship for Dreamers.
Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), an immigration hardliner, said allowing any group of undocumented immigrants, including Dreamers, a chance to become U.S. citizens would “sacrifice the rule of law.”
“If you legalize people that are here in this country unlawfully and you waive the application even on children and you waive the application on their parents … then whom do you enforce the law against?” King, a member of the House Judiciary Committee, told his colleagues.
“We have to preserve the rule of law so that this country can last for many, many generations into the future — not our lifetime, but the lifetime of the United States of America,” he continued. “If you exempt the rule of law with regard to immigration, then what you’ve done is you’ve suspended the law in a category.”
Last week, King told VOXXI he is worried that through the step-by-step approach his party is taking to address immigration reform, the House could approve legislation that would allow a path to citizenship. He is working to prevent that from happening.
Also speaking in favor of the “rule of law” was Rep. Raul Labrador (R-Idaho), who was once a part of a House bipartisan group drafting a comprehensive immigration reform bill. He told his colleagues on the subcommittee that it’s important to “comply with the rule of law.”
“There is no right to citizenship of the United States,” he said. “It’s a privilege that is provided by the law and it is a privilege that is provided by our constitution.”