House Republicans today begin an effort to carve comprehensive immigration reform into little pieces.
The House Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing to address the immigration status of undocumented immigrant children, known as DREAMers.
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., and Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, have been crafting a bill, expected to be called the Kids Act, to offer a path to citizenship only to children who were brought to the U.S. illegally by their parents -- a move critics said would separate families by sending parents home and only addresses a fraction of the 11 million undocumented people living in the United States.
Goodlatte, in a statement released Monday, said today's hearing was part of the House's "step-by-step" approach to reform.
"These children came here through no fault of their own and many of them know no other home than the United States," he said in the statement. "Any successful immigration 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."
Cantor, R-Va., the second-highest-ranking Republican in the House, said last week at a GOP press conference the only path to citizenship he favors is the one for DREAMers, as "it's an issue of decency, of compassion."
"These, in many instances, are kids without a country if we don't allow them to become full citizens of our country," Cantor said. "Where else would these kids go?"
DREAMers, however, reject the Kids Act or any similar legislation because it is not expected to include a pathway to citizenship for the remaining undocumented individuals currently in the country, including their parents.
"As DREAMers, we oppose the Kids Act and any other effort of piecemeal legislation," Cristina Jimenez, United We Dream managing director, said on a conference call with reporters Monday. "[We are] very much outraged. ... [House Republicans] would provide a pathway to immigrant youth while intending to leave our parents behind. ... We won't allow Republicans to divide our families."
Jimenez called any legislation that does not include a pathway to citizenship "unacceptable."
"Our parents sacrificed everything to bring us here for a better future for us and our families," Jimenez said. "We wouldn't be here without them and we won't leave them behind."
"I know what is true in my heart and I know what is true in talking with mom," Lorella Praeli, United We Dream director of advocacy and policy, said on the call with reporters. "She doesn't want to be stuck in something that grants her a second-class citizenship ... permanent underclass. ... That is not what America stands for."
Praeli believes DREAMers will decide whether or not to support the House depending upon what House leadership is willing to do -- allow a vote for comprehensive immigration reform or continue with the current, piecemeal approach.
She believes that if the senior leadership allowed the Senate's comprehensive immigration reform bill or a yet-unreleased bill from the House bipartisan group of seven to come to the floor, comprehensive immigration reform could pass.