Immigration: GOP Seeks Solution Short of Path to Citizenship

Susan Walsh/AP Photo

The House Judiciary Committee held Congress' first hearing on immigration reform Tuesday, and some Republicans used the hearing to determine whether there is a position short of establishing a pathway to citizenship in immigration reform.

Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, urged members of the committee to consider all options in assessing how the House should proceed with immigration reform.

"This issue is too complex and too important to not examine each piece in detail. We can't rush to judgment," Goodlatte said. "This committee needs to take the time to learn from the past so that our efforts to reform our immigration laws do not repeat the same mistakes."

Some Republican congressmen posed questions about whether it's possible to reach a middle ground between "mass deportation" and providing all undocumented immigrants with a pathway to citizenship.

"Are there options that we should consider between the extremes of mass deportation and a pathway to citizenship for those not lawfully present in the United States?" Goodlatte asked San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro, who was one of four witnesses on the first panel.

"Let me say that I do believe that a pathway to citizenship should be the option that the Congress selects. I don't see that as an extreme option," Castro responded.

"If we can find a solution that is…short of pathway to citizenship, but better than just kicking 12 million people out, why is that not a good solution?" Rep. Raul Labrador, R-Idaho, asked.

"I would say that's not the solution that's in the nation's best interest," Castro said. "One of the reasons that I believe that is that if we don't go down that route that I'm convinced that we're more likely to find ourselves here again in ten years, fifteen years, twenty years."

As the House of Representatives tries to determine how it will confront immigration reform after the "Gang of 8? put forth a bipartisan plan in the Senate last week, the two sides at Tuesday's hearing differed on whether the House should pursue a comprehensive approach or work through a piecemeal process.

"Let's not let the more contentious issues and this idea of comprehensive reform prevent us from this year, this month, in the next two or three months, passing something to address what is a horrible situation in this country, and that's we're training people to go back to their countries and compete against us," Rep. Spencer Bachus, R-Ala., said.

"The notion of comprehensive immigration has been pushed around and bandied about, but the fact of the matter is that this is one big challenge that I don't think we can handle on a piecemeal basis," said Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich. "We've got to approach this in terms of a more holistic way."

Castro, who shared his family story in his keynote address at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte last year, invoked his grandmother's personal history as an immigrant as an example of how immigration reform should be dealt with in a comprehensive manner.

"My grandmother came to San Antonio through Eagle Pass, Texas in 1922 as a six-year-old orphan. She wasn't a high-skilled worker but two generations later, her grandson is the mayor of the city and the other grandson is the congressman from San Antonio. These are the stories that we have to pay heed to do when we think about the need to do this comprehensively."

Earlier in the day, House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, lauded the committee for holding Congress' first hearing on immigration reform, but warned that the legislative body should not rush through the decision-making process.

"This is not about being in a hurry. This is about trying to get it right on behalf of the American people and those who are suffering under an immigration system that doesn't work very well for anybody," Boehner said.

The Senate Judiciary Committee will hold its first hearing on immigration reform, which will feature testimony from Homeland Security Sec. Janet Napolitano, next Wednesday, Feb. 13.

ABC News' John Parkinson contributed to this report.