Protesters disrupt House panel's immigration markup

The committee is considering the SAFE Act, an interior enforcement bill that would both boost federal enforcement and authorize state and local law enforcement to detain illegal immigrants. 

Backers argue it would stop the federal government from ignoring the enforcement of immigration laws, while critics say it codifies racial profiling and would turn immigrants living in the U.S. illegally into criminals.

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The bill is the first in a series of proposals the Judiciary Committee plans to send to the House floor as part of Goodlatte’s piecemeal approach toward immigration reform. The process is a contrast to the Senate’s comprehensive legislation, which could be sent to the House by the end of the month. Democrats and many immigration reform advocates oppose a piecemeal approach, saying it is an unworkable way to overhaul an interconnected immigration system.

Goodlatte tried to proceed with the markup, but with the shouts from outside the hearing filling the room, he briefly suspended the meeting and asked the Capitol Police to clear the corridor.

The protesters are high school and college graduates known as “Dreamers” who have pushed for enactment of the Dream Act, which would offer a path to citizenship to younger immigrants who were brought into the country illegally by their parents.

Goodlatte congratulated the demonstrators for graduating high school and college, and he said the committee would “work its will” and “hopefully” move in the direction they sought. He encouraged those who were “intent on listening” to the committee’s proceedings to stay, but he said those who wanted to disrupt the hearing “need to leave.”

After a few moments, the room quieted down, and the markup continued.