WASHINGTON -- House Republicans insisted on Tuesday that Democrats are showing a lack of willingness to compromise on immigration reform by calling for a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, arguing that they should be more open to legislation without it.
"Are there options that we should consider between the extremes of mass deportation and the pathway to citizenship for those not lawfully present in the United States?" Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), who chairs the House Judiciary Committee, asked San Antonio Mayor Julián Castro (D) at a hearing on immigration reform, the first on the issue for the 113th Congress.
Another top Republican, immigration subcommittee chairman Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.), accused Democrats of refusing to come toward the center.
"I think you earlier referenced that [a pathway to citizenship] as compromise, and I'm curious, a compromise between what?" he said to Castro. "I don't see anyone advocating for full-fledged citizenship without background checks, for full-fledged citizenship without taxes, for full-fledged citizenship without fines. So It's a compromise between what?"
A number of other GOP members of the committee made similar statements. They questioned Castro in particular, repeatedly asking whether he would support immigration reform that did not allow undocumented immigrants already in the United States to become citizens. Castro is not a member of Congress, and won't get to vote on the matter, but lawmakers used him as a stand-in for Democrats who say any immigration bill must include such a pathway, arguing such an insistence could derail any reform efforts.
Castro reiterated that there must be a way for the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants already in the United States to become citizens.
"I do believe that a pathway to citizenship should be the option that Congress selects -- I don't see that as an extreme option," Castro replied to Goodlatte. "I would disagree with the characterization of that as the extreme," he added later.
Some Republicans hold that view, too, and previous attempts at immigration reform have always addressed the possibility. There would be a pathway to citizenship under a bipartisan Senate plan released by the "gang of eight" legislators last week, and one brewing fight appears to be over how difficult that road should be -- not whether it should exist at all. In the House, a bipartisan group is working on a similar effort, and many of its members also believe undocumented immigrants should be given a chance to become citizens.
But the progress made by those bipartisan groups on the issue masks the difficulty that remains. Gowdy indicated openness to the Senate plan when it was released last week, but Goodlatte told USA Today on Monday that is he not convinced by the Senate immigration plan because of supporters' insistence that there be a pathway to citizenship. He questioned whether Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) is "serious about doing immigration reform."
Despite arguments against a pathway to citizenship, the tone of the Judiciary Committee hearing was noticeably calmer from hearings on immigration last year. In March, some members insisted during the Judiciary's subcommittee hearings on immigration that immigrants in detention were being treated almost as if they were on a nice vacation.
Some who were more vocal at that hearing were less combative this time around. But they were still highly skeptical of reform. Gowdy asked Castro whether he thought people should be forced to become citizens even if they didn't want to. (Castro said he did not.)
Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), one of the more outspoken hardliners on immigration, implied Castro was for open borders, an argument the mayor also rejected.
"I recall you mentioning that it's not a zero-sum game, that we can have skilled workers and unskilled workers and family reunification," King said. "A zero-sum game always gets my attention, because we have about 6.3 billion people on the planet. So that would be the universe you've addressed, I think. Do you believe there should be a limit to the people brought into the United States?"
Some committee members said they might be more likely to support piecemeal reform, including bills to improve the legal immigration process.
"When you take [on] comprehensive, then we're dealing with certain issues like full citizenship," said Rep. Spencer Bachus (R-Ala.). "Whatever else we disagree on, I think we can agree on that that's a more toxic and contentious issue -- ramming [through] full amnesty."
Democrats, meanwhile, pointed to already high deportation rates and border enforcement as evidence that President Obama has already held up his end of the deal by enforcing existing immigration law -- an argument the committee spent a later portion of the hearing discussing.
Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.), the ranking member on the Judiciary Committee, said during the hearing that he appreciated the work on immigration reform, even if it was far from solved.
"We may not have settled much," he said. "But that's the way these things start out, isn't it?"
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The Naturalization Act of 1790
The Naturalization Act of 1790 was our country's first set of laws dealing with citizenship. Applicants had to be "<a href="http://rs6.loc.gov/cgi-bin/ampage?collId=llsl&fileName=001/llsl001.db&recNum=226 " target="_hplink">a free white person</a>" of "good moral character." This excluded indentured servants and slaves. Good moral character was substantiated by establishing residence for at least one year in the state from where he was applying, and at least two years of residence in the country. The Naturalization Act of 1795 would extend that requirement to five years, and is still standard today.
The Fourteenth Amendment, 1868
A Reconstruction Amendment that was added to the U.S. Constitution following the Civil War, the Citizenship Clause of the 14th Amendment establishes for the first time that children born on U.S. soil would be conferred U.S. citizenship regardless of their parent's citizenship status, race, or place of birth. Last year, Rep. Steve King (R-IA) introduced the <a href="http://www.govtrack.us/congress/bills/112/hr140 " target="_hplink">Birthright Citizenship Act of 2011</a> to Congress, and challenged this. The bill would require that at least one parent be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident for a child to be granted citizenship. According to the <a href="http://www.opencongress.org/bill/112-h140/text " target="_hplink">bill's text</a>, the Birthright Citizenship Act of 2011 would amend the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952, and "clarify those classes of individuals born in the United States who are nationals and citizens of the United States at birth." Prior to this, Rep. Nathan Deal (R-GA) <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/05/26/nathan-deal-georgia-lawma_n_207485.html " target="_hplink">introduced</a> a similar <a href="http://www.opencongress.org/bill/111-h1868/show" target="_hplink">bill</a> in 2009.
The Naturalization Act of 1870
The Naturalization Act of 1870<a href="http://thepoliticsofimmigration.org/pages/chronology.htm " target="_hplink"> explicitly extended</a> naturalization laws to "aliens of African nativity and persons of African descent." This meant that for the first time, African-American children would be conferred citizenship upon birth. Asian immigrants and other people of color are excluded per the Naturalization Acts of 1790 and 1795.
The Page Act of 1875
Named after Republican Representative Horace F. Page, this is the first U.S. federal immigration law to explicitly prohibit the immigration of a particular group: persons of Asian descent. Primarily meant to limit Chinese immigrant labor and prostitution, the Page Act prohibited the immigration of: (1) contracted labor from "China, Japan, or any Oriental country" that was not "free and voluntary," (2) Chinese prostitution and (3) criminals and women who would engage in prostitution. Ultimately, the <a href="http://www.uchastings.edu/racism-race/pageact.html " target="_hplink">Page Act</a> severely <a href="http://immigration-online.org/228-page-act-united-states-1875.html " target="_hplink">restricted</a> the immigration of Asian women. Only 136 of the the nearly 40,000 Chinese immigrants who arrived in the months before the bill's enforcement were women. And, it would pave the way for the Chinese Exclusion Act. In this picture, Michael Lin, chair of the 1882 Project, a coalition of rights groups seeking a statement of regret over that year's Chinese Exclusion Act, speaks on May 26, 2011 in Washington, DC, at the US House of Representatives in front of a reproduction of a 19th-century sign that aimed at rousing up sentiment against Chinese Americans. Lawmakers introduced a bill that would offer an official statement of regret for the act, which banned further immigration of Chinese to the United States and ended citizenship rights for ethnic Chinese. (AFP PHOTO/SHAUN TANDON).
The Chinese Exclusion Act, 1882
Signed by President Chester A. Arthur, the <a href="http://www.pbs.org/weta/thewest/resources/archives/seven/chinxact.htm " target="_hplink">Chinese Exclusion Act</a> was the first federal immigration law to prohibit immigration on the basis of race. The bill barred all Chinese laborers, skilled and unskilled, from immigrating to the U.S. for ten years. It was made permanent by 1903, and was not lifted until the 1943 Magnuson Act. The 1898 Supreme Court <a href="http://ocp.hul.harvard.edu/immigration/exclusion.html " target="_hplink">decision</a> in <em>United States v. Wong Kim Ark</em> finally extended naturalization laws to persons of Chinese descent by ruling that anyone born in the United States was indeed a U.S. citizen. This editorial cartoon from 1882 shows a Chinese man being excluded from entry to the "Golden Gate of Liberty." The sign next to the iron door reads, "Notice--Communist, Nihilist, Socialist, Fenian & Hoodlum welcome. But no admittance to Chinamen." At the bottom, the caption reads, "THE ONLY ONE BARRED OUT. Enlightened American Statesman--'We must draw the line <em>somewhere</em>, you know.'" (Image Source: Frank Leslie's illustrated newspaper, vol. 54 (1882 April 1), p. 96. [Public domain], via <a href="http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:The_only_one_barred_out_cph.3b48680.jpg" target="_hplink">Wikimedia Commons</a>).
The Naturalization Act of 1906
The Naturalization Act of 1906 further <a href="http://www.understandingrace.org/history/gov/eastern_southern_immigration.html" target="_hplink">defined</a> the naturalization process: the ability to speak English was made a <a href="http://www.enotes.com/topic/Naturalization_Act_of_1906" target="_hplink">requisite</a> for immigrants to adjust their status.
The Immigration Act of 1924
U.S. President Coolidge signed this U.S. federal <a href="http://history.state.gov/milestones/1921-1936/ImmigrationAct " target="_hplink">bill</a> into law. It capped the number of immigrants who could be admitted entry to the U.S. and barred immigration of persons who were not eligible for naturalization. And, as the Naturalization Act of 1790 required, an immigrant had to be white in order to naturalize. The quotas varied by country. Image Source: Flickr Creative Commons, <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/nycmarines/6306315902/" target="_hplink">NYCMarines</a>.
The Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952 (The McCarran-Walter Act)
The <a href="https://docs.google.com/viewer?a=v&q=cache:zwaVG82lZisJ:www-rohan.sdsu.edu/dept/polsciwb/brianl/docs/1952McCarranWaltersAct.pdf+&hl=en&gl=us&pid=bl&srcid=ADGEESjEwx76FIBTixZAfyncZz-1CSuSeciv5qB6vvWTrUfW58XRpXq8zkpnI57XSuuG5Bu-WSySGbEhxYvZxP7y6qDQuOsDhgDa6qUqUaJ8F4imTzKJsVtppHc_-eew2dK6vGhoIUZs&sig=AHIEtbTNQ5GFiNMVS-xyThq8VVSj_gG9KA " target="_hplink">McCarran-Walter Act</a> kept up the controversial Immigration Act of 1924, but <a href="http://history.state.gov/milestones/1945-1952/ImmigrationAct" target="_hplink">formally</a> ended Asian exclusion.
Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965
When President Lyndon Johnson signed the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, it <a href="http://library.uwb.edu/guides/USimmigration/1965_immigration_and_nationality_act.html" target="_hplink">abolished</a> the quota system that favored immigration from Europe and limited immigration from Asia and South America.
Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996
The 1996 <a href="http://www.uscis.gov/ilink/docView/PUBLAW/HTML/PUBLAW/0-0-0-10948.html " target="_hplink">Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act</a> (IIRIRA) is a piece of legislation that <a href="http://library.uwb.edu/guides/usimmigration/1996_illegal_immigration_reform_and_immigrant_responsibility_act.html " target="_hplink">defined</a> an array of issues to do with legal and illegal immigration -- from outlining how border patrol agents should administer visa processing, to the minutiae of how to handle deportation proceedings -- IIRIRA established enforcement and patrolling practices.