Top Republican Refuses to Predict When Congress Will Vote on Immigration

Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., declined to predict today whether comprehensive immigration overhaul will get a vote in Congress anytime soon.

"My job isn't to predict when it's going to happen. My job is to build the consensus that we need to have immigration reform," the congressman told ABC News' Jonathan Karl during a live interview at the Newseum today during the second annual Creativity Conference.

But Goodlatte acknowledged that fixing the country's broken immigration system could help bolster the nation's vibrant creative community.

Congress must address immigration "starting with enforcement [and] going to legal immigration reform," he said.

"Our immigration laws are not being enforced in many ways. … We're blurring the distinction between legal immigration and illegal immigration, and the longer we wait, the worse that's going to be," he added. "And there are new laws that are needed."

He added, "The grand bargain here is, we need to have an agreement that if we find the appropriate status for people who have been here a long time and pay back taxes and pay a fine and do some other things … allow them to stay here, but for the future, there would be zero tolerance of illegal immigration."

The United States should also focus on attracting skilled foreign workers, who are often educated at U.S. colleges and universities, Goodlatte told Karl.

"We want them to stay here and create jobs here," he said.

Goodlatte, the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, touted the proposed Supplying Knowledge-based Immigrants and Lifting Levels of STEM (SKILLS) Visa Act, which would eliminate visas granted via lottery through the Diversity Visa program and instead grant them to STEM workers.

In the wide-ranging interview, the congressman also spoke about protecting intellectual property, which he called a "dynamic part of our economy."

"Piracy has this allure to it, but it's theft. It's stealing!" he said.

"There are always going to be thieves," he admitted. "If it can be digitized and put online, [it] can't compete with free. So we've got to convince consumers that they have an investment, a long-term investment, in paying something for that. At the same time, the industries have to recognize that consumer habits have changed."

It's up to Congress, he said, to protect intellectual property, "to make it as hard as possible for the people who steal other people's works, because if you don't reward the creators, you're not going to get the creativity."