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Iowa Immigration Law Blog: Immigration Hearings Begin in the House of Representatives - February 5, 2013

Today (February 5, 2013), the House Judiciary Committee is holding its first hearing on a potential change to the immigration system.  The hearing is entitled, “America’s Immigration System:  Opportunities for Legal Immigration and Enforcement of Laws against Illegal Immigration.”  Catchy.  More information can be found here:


While the hearing is on-going as I write, expect the following points to be debated: 

  • Setting up a trade-off between family immigration and employment immigration.  You will hear the term “chain migration” to describe legal, family-based immigration that has made up about two-thirds of our current immigration system.  Many seem to think of immigration as a “zero sum game” (how we cut up the pieces of a finite pie, rather than how we increase the size of the pie).
  • Whether there is some “middle ground” between “mass deportation” and a “path to citizenship” for the people who are now here illegally.  In other words, is there any way Congress can avoid this hard decision, such as creating a class of people who could never become a U.S. citizen.
  • If a path to citizenship is created, will it be tied to certain triggers in border security.  The status of security at the border will (and should) be the subject of debate so that the facts can be aired for better understanding.
  • How will interior enforcement change?
  • Will a broader guest-worker program be created and how will it be designed?



Stay tuned – the debate is only beginning.


10:33am: Rep. Goodlatte (R-VA) starts the House Hearing: We must be out faithful to our heritage as a nation of immigrants…and a nation of laws. Rep. Goodlatte did not mention border security.


10:40am: Rep. Gutierrez (D-IL) makes a statement: I didn’t come here to undermine anyone’s work, but to work in an collaborative spirit, you Chairman Goodlatte…This issue is important to me…that immigrants that come here to sweat and toil in this country. As Gandhi would have said if he were here today let’s have politics with principals.


10:42am: Rep Gowdy’s (R-SC) opening statement: We understand why people come to this country. America is picked because we embrace freedom and justice, we are a nation of laws and those laws must be enforced. We must reconcile humanity and respect for the rule of law. In 1986 we were told that immigration had been settled once and for all, but 25 years later we are still waiting on border security and employment verification. Many are open to legislative solutions of humanity and grace, but people will be watching to ensure we are serious about enforcing the rule of law.


10:46am: Rep. Lofgren’s (D-CA) opening statement: Welcomes Rep. Goodlatte’s leadership on this issue to ensure that America does not lead a trail of tears to the border. Our immigration system tears families apart, if we want a moral and humane system we have a lot of work to do. Today the country is past the point of debating whether or not we need immigration reform. Conservative leaders have signaled support for CIR including a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. It will take bi-partisanship to solve this problem. We are now removing record numbers of immigrants a year and according to experts net migration from Mexico is zero. Every year we spend more on immigration enforcement than on all other types of federal criminal enforcement combined. We know that we must reform our employment and family visa system. Partial legalization is a dangerous path, we only have to look at France and Germany to see how unwise it is to create a permanent underclass. With the exception of slavery and the Chinese Exclusion Act our laws have never prevented people from becoming citizens. Immigration is a system and needs systematic overhaul, not a piecemeal approach. We need essential workers, but we should not do so at the expense of family based immigration. Family based immigration plays an important role in bolstering our economy—families are more likely to start small business and employ American workers. The founders of Google and Intel came here not based on their skills on employment visas, but through the family immigration system and as refugees.


10:53am: First panel begins


Witness List:


Panel One:

Vivek Wadhwa

Vice President of Innovation and Research at Singularity University;
Director of Research the Pratt School of Engineering, Duke University

Michael Teitelbaum

Senior Adviser, Alfred P. Sloan Foundation and Fellow Harvard Law School

Puneet S. Arora

Chairman of the Board
Immigration Voice

Julian Castro

San Antonio, Texas


Panel Two:

Julie Myers Wood

President of Guidepost Solutions LLC;
Former Assistant Secretary of ICE, DHS 2006-2008

Chris Crane

President, National Immigration and Customs Enforcement Council 118,
American Federation of Government Employees

Jessica Vaughan

Director of Policy Studies
Center for Immigration Studies

Muzaffar Chishti

Director, Migration Policy Institute Office
New York University Law School