Date: Feb 05, 2013

Today, The House Committee on the Judiciary held the first of what Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Virginia) said would be several hearings on immigration reform.  For more than five hours, Members of the Committee questioned witnesses on “America’s Immigration System: Opportunities for Legal Immigration and Enforcement of Laws against Illegal Immigration.”  Questions and answers covered border security, visa overstays; the lack of enforcement of the law; worker protections; incentives that encourage illegal immigration; the numerous shortcomings of the 1986 IRCA amnesty law; how we can admit more skilled and necessary immigrant labor to the country without taking away jobs from American; the definition of comprehensive immigration reform; and comments also touched upon the needs of labor-intensive agriculture.  Extensive testimony and opinions were voiced, but virtually every Member on both sides of the aisle as well as witnesses expressed frustration with the “broken” current immigration system.  In the words of witness Muzaffar Christi, director of the Migration Policy Institute Office at New York University Law School, “We don’t have laws that match reality.” Representative Zoe Lofgren (D-Ca) stated, “Let’s clean up our mess and make sure we don’t leave a new mess for a future Congress to have to deal with.”

Lofgren brought up the fact that there exists no workable legal provision that meets the needs of agriculture -- a vital service to the nation.  She said on the one hand, we have a sign that says “Help Wanted” and another that says “No Trespassing.” One witness, Dr. Michael Teitelbaum, former commissioner of the U.S. Commission on Immigration Reform expressed his own opinion that guest worker programs “do not work,” and farmers should plant crops that didn’t require so much human labor.  His statement was rebutted by several Members including Rep. Raul Labrador (R-Idaho) who said that the market should decide what farmers planted and Representative Karen Bass (D-CA) who replied to Teitelbaum, “That would devastate the economy of California.” 

The panel had plenty of fireworks including a brief protest when proceedings were disrupted by a group of about ten young people who stood up holding signs chanting “undocumented and unafraid.”  They were immediately escorted from the hearing room.  Chairman Goodlatte posed the last question about the nation‘s broken immigration system: “What would give comfort to American citizens if we enact new comprehensive immigration reform legislation?”  That question IS one of the big ones that will be discussed and debated in the weeks ahead. Future hearings will take place in the Immigration and Border Security Subcommittee under Chairman Gowdy Trey (R-SC).

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