Goodlatte steps back from immigration proposal that focused on children

The chairman of the House Judiciary Committee on Thursday all but disavowed his previous support for a proposal to grant legal status to children brought to the United States illegally by their parents.

Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) and Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) began work nearly a year ago on legislation called the Kids Act. But now Goodlatte has told reporters that even the children of illegal immigrants would have to wait until a new enforcement system became operational before having the chance to legalize their status. Such a process could take years.

“When that regime is up and operating effectively, we do need to address the legal reforms that are necessary and what happens with people who are not lawfully present, including children who were brought here illegally by their parents,” Goodlatte said at a breakfast sponsored by The Christian Science Monitor.

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His comments were the latest evidence that an earlier immigration reform push has stalled out entirely in the run-up to the midterm congressional elections.

Goodlatte’s Judiciary Committee has not considered immigration legislation since approving security and guest-worker proposals in June 2013. At that time, the chairman said he would also bring forward bills addressing the legal status of illegal immigrants and announced he was working on the Kids Act with Cantor.

But those proposals never materialized, and now top Democrats are saying they think immigration reform is dead for the 113th Congress.

Goodlatte on Thursday said the Kids Act never got beyond the discussion stage, and he described it as project belonging to Cantor, who was defeated earlier this month in a primary after his conservative opponent hammered him for his support of “amnesty” for children.

“To my knowledge, there never was a bill that Eric Cantor was working on,” Goodlatte said. “There was a lot of discussion about how we would handle that issue as part of the step-by-step approach, but there is no legislation out there.

“We’re not going to get to those discussions until we see enforcement of the law,” he added.

Goodlatte blamed Obama administration policies for the flood of unaccompanied children from Central America at the border. He called on the president to show leadership on the issue and said legislation was needed to address it, although not anything that would be coupled with a broader immigration overhaul.

He said he would lead a delegation to the border next week to observe the situation firsthand.

Goodlatte reiterated his opposition to President Obama’s decision to defer deportation for so-called Dreamers, and voiced support for Speaker John Boehner’s (R-Ohio) move to initiate a lawsuit on behalf of the House against Obama over his use of executive actions.

“I believe the president has greatly exceeded his legal authority under the law,” Goodlatte said.