House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R–VA) and House Judiciary Committee chairman Bob Goodlatte (R–VA), reportedly continue work “on a bill to provide a legal status to those who were brought illegally to the U.S. as children by their parents.” Although Speaker of the House John Boehner (R–OH) spoke favorably about the concept, the Speaker has the same handicap as the rest of the American people in assessing the Cantor–Goodlatte bill: There is no Cantor–Goodlatte bill available to the public. No one can evaluate legislation that does not exist. Representatives Cantor and Goodlatte should reveal their bill so the public can examine it.
Without legislation to examine, no one knows, for example, whether Representatives Cantor and Goodlatte, in addressing the status of children brought illegally into the U.S., propose amnesty to reward any adult lawbreakers involved. Congress should not use its authority to determine whether and on what conditions foreign nationals may remain in the U.S. to reward those who have entered or remained in the U.S. illegally. Instead, Congress should fix America’s broken immigration system and reward the foreign nationals who follow American immigration laws to get to this country.
When Congress enacted immigration amnesty in 1986, over 2.5 million aliens illegally in the U.S. availed themselves of the amnesty to attain legal status. The House committee that originated the legislation said it was “a one-time legalization program,” and the Senator from Wyoming who played the leading role in moving the legislation through the Senate made clear that “this is it” and that it was a “one time” amnesty. In the years following that amnesty for illegal immigration, the population of aliens illegally in the U.S. has soared to approximately 11 million.
Congress should not treat aliens who broke the law better than aliens who followed the law or encourage future illegal immigration into the U.S. Whether the Cantor–Goodlatte bill will have those ill effects cannot yet be known, because Representatives Cantor and Goodlatte have not shown the American people their proposed legislation.
The Heritage Foundation has set forth its prescription for strengthening America’s immigration system, providing a yardstick for measuring immigration ideas. Let the American people see what is in the Cantor–Goodlatte bill so we can see how it measures up.