Nuances on the "Path to Citizenship" Emerge in Protracted House Hearing

By David North on February 6, 2013

To what extent are the pro-amnesty people advocating what the illegal aliens want for themselves, and to what extent are they calling for, instead, what the advocates want to do to the illegal aliens?

That question was implied in yesterday's marathon immigration policy hearing of the House Judiciary Committee.

In other words, to what extent do the illegals simply want the right to work legally in the United States, and to what extent do their supporters want something far more sweeping — full citizenship? How much of the push for change relates to raw politics, rather than to better treatment in the labor market?

Rep. Raul Labrador (R-Idaho), a newcomer to the Judiciary Committee, a former immigration lawyer, raised this issue at the hearing when he commented that when he was working with migrants he found that they were not seeking citizenship in most cases, but what they wanted was the right to work legally in the United States. (Labrador, of Puerto Rican ancestry, represents one of the least Puerto Rican constituencies in the House.)

Labrador's voice at the hearing was the only Hispanic one calling for less than full citizenship for those who are currently in illegal status. I do not agree with the Idaho representative's statement that a large, non-immigrant worker program is needed for agriculture, but his is an interesting new presence at a hearing where most of the players (e.g., Reps. Lofgren (D-Calif.), and King (R-Iowa)) simply re-stated what they have been saying for years.

There was another intriguing exchange on the "pathway to citizenship". Julian Castro, Democratic mayor of San Antonio and a rising star in his party (whose brother is the congressman from the same city), characterized citizenship for the illegals as a compromise.

Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.), the new chairman of the immigration subcommittee, asked him how citizenship for the illegals could possibly be a compromise. "What is the compromise with?" he asked.

Castro, who is silky smooth on the witness stand, never quite answered the question, though I suppose the logical reply is that citizenship after paying taxes and fees, and going through a records check, is less desirable than a totally free pass to U.S. citizen status.

What was eye-opening to me, and perhaps to Gowdy, too, was the mindset of the advocates who could, apparently with a straight face, argue that full citizenship for illegal aliens was a "compromise".

The hearing was before the full committee, a much larger body than the subcommittee, which meant that a large flock of representatives each got their five minutes in the spotlight. All of this meant that the Center for Immigration Studies' star witness, Jessica Vaughan, who was on the second of the two panels, did not get to present her cogent testimony regarding the failures of immigration law enforcement until the middle of the afternoon. The hearing got under way a few minutes after the scheduled 10:15 a.m. opening and continued, with recesses, until 4:40 in the afternoon.

The hearing gave immigration junkies a chance to watch the new Judiciary Chairman, Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), in action. He came across to me as thoughtful, good-humored, attentive, and well-prepared; he asked some searching questions about why the amnesty part of the IRCA experiment, 25 years ago, was so successful and the promised immigration law enforcement portion of IRCA was not. His opposition to the diversity visa, that spreads 55,000 visas worldwide via a lottery, was stated as well.

He said that there would be many other hearings, perhaps at the subcommittee level.