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House Judiciary Hearing on DREAMers (Updated 7/23/13)

Cite as "AILA InfoNet Doc. No. 13071745 (posted Jul. 23, 2013)"

On 7/23/13 at 2:00 pm (ET) the Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security of the House Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing on “Addressing the Immigration Status of Illegal Immigrants Brought to the United States as Children.”

Witness List

Panel One

The Honorable Mike Coffman
United States House of Representatives

The Honorable Jeff Denham
United States House of Representatives

The Honorable Cory Gardner
United States House of Representatives

The Honorable Luis Guiterrez
United States House of Representatives

Panel Two
Dr. Barrett Duke
The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention

Ms. Margie McHugh
Migration Policy Institute

Ms. Pamela Rivera
Washington, D.C.

Ms. Rosa Velazquez
Arkansas Coalition for DREAM


2:30pm Hearing Begins
Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC), Chairman of the Immigration Subcommittee, begins with his opening statement.
Because children are a special class the law treats them differently in almost all circumstances. Even the justice system treats children differently focusing on rehabilitation because children cannot form intent. Children who were brought here have not committed a crime, that is not a description of compassion, that is a description of the law. I remember meeting a young lady with Rep. Denham who for the most part of her life believed that she was a U.S. citizen, she had one country for us, "What country am I supposed to go back to, this is the only country that I have ever known." Attempts to group the entire 11 million into one homogenous group in order to secure a political remedy for these people will only end up hurting the most vulnerable. Compassion is good, but volatile, the law is what remains sturdy. The law stands on the side of these children.

Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), the Ranking member of the Subcommittee, gives her opening statement. I want to remind people of what Martin Luther King referred to as the fierce urgency of now. I believe that a strong bipartisan support for that principle. The DREAM Act was first introduced as bipartisan legislation in 2001 and has been bipartisan ever since. I have concerns about what I've read in the press leading up to this hearing. I understand that Majority Leader Cantor (R-VA) and Chairman Goodlatte (R-VA) are working on a proposal called the KIDS Act, but we have not yet seen the language or been asked to contribute to it. I know this is a sharp departure from the history of the DREAM Act that was always bipartisan in drafting and introduction. I'm also concerned about some Republican lawmakers who are drafting legislation to offer temporary legal status to undocumented immigrants who are not DREAMers, but no special path to citizenship. We cannot leave these people in limbo status for the rest of their lives. We cannot create a permanent underclass. Americans believe in a path to citizenship as well as part of comprehensive immigration reform. This is the time to fix our broken immigration system.

Rep. Goodlatte, Chairman of the full Judiciary Committee, begins his opening statement.
When most Americans think about illegal immigrants they think of immigrants crossing the desert over the Mexican border. But there are many classes of immigrants who are here illegally. The immigrants who were brought here as children should be allowed to stay here legally, but it must be accomplished effectively and responsibly so we don't have to do this all over again a few years from now. I don't think parents who brought their young children to the U.S. illegally should be given the same consideration because it will encourage others to do so in the future and it is dangerous for all those who are crossing illegally.

Rep. Garcia (D-FL) begins his opening statement.
I want to thank the chairman, I know he and many on the other side are trying to find a just solution. That said when members of this committee and this House use inflammatory language to describe these populations it is beneath the dignity of this body.

Rep. King (R-IA) begins his opening statement.
My purpose for requesting an opening statement is to change the tone of this hearing because I see eight witnesses who are all on one side of this issue that I don't agree. We all have sympathy for children who were brought here without the knowledge that they were breaking the rules. I think it's the parents' fault, are any of these witnesses going to say we should punish these parents? Or is this backdoor amnesty?

Rep. Jackson-Lee (D-TX) begins her opening statement.
I'm holding an immigration hearing in Houston on the 29th and we are looking to delineate Texas interests and commitments in comprehensive immigration reform. Business, badges and bibles are support reform.

Rep. Ted Poe (R-TX) begins his opening statement.
I want to begin my statement with the phrase, "breaking the law." Everywhere in our law that I'm aware of there must be some sort of intent to do break a law. There are 1.3 million children brought here before the age of ten. Immigration law is the only place I know of that intent is not required to be considered illegal. I think it's time that we bring the law up to the standard of all laws in the United States.

Rep. Raul Labrador (R-ID) begins his opening statement.
It's important as Americans that we comply with the rule of law, ensure the security of our nation and that we can correct mistakes that we have made in the past. There is not right to citizenship in the United States, it is a privilege provided by the law.

Panel I begins.

Rep. Coffman (R-CO) begins his testimony focusing on the importance of allowing undocumented immigrants brought here as children be allowed to enlist in the military and receive status.
Rep. Denham (R-CA) begins his testimony. He shares that he has a personal connection to this issues, his father and brother-in-law are immigrants who became citizens. He also expresses his support for the ENLIST Act as one way for children to legalize.
Rep. Gutierrez (R-CO) begins his testimony focusing on the importance of securing the borders before turning to addressing the illegal immigrant population. He believes that we must be sure that any legislation for the benefit of these children cannot lead to chain migration, we cannot reward those who have broken the law. This time Congress cannot just talk about immigration reform, Congress must act.

Rep. Gutierrez (D-IL) begins his testimony.
Twelve years ago I introduced the first bill to address the undocumented population brought here as children, since then the movement has become deeper and broader. Over the August recess, members of this committee and the full house will see the broad support of immigration reform in their districts. Just eight months ago the Republican Party platform said deport them all, just six months ago all but six Republicans voted to defund the DACA program, just three weeks ago all Republicans on this committee voted to make every undocumented immigrant a criminal. Let's walk forward together. If the Republican majority is starting with the DREAMers, I say that even a small step in the right direction is the first step in a good negotiation. Legalizing only the DREAMers is not enough, it would not be enough to satisfy the intense hunger in the immigrant community, the patriotism. I've met with DREAMers and their parents, and I want the same thing for their kids as I want for my own daughters, the indivisibility of family. I can't believe that Republicans, who so believe in the sanctity of family, would want to tear these families apart. I saw a level of maturity and level of confidence, DREAMers will not settle for what is good for them unless they can also win what is good for their family. Good and decent kids are raised by good and decent parents. We must honor the parents who raised them to be successful children. I want all of us to walk towards reform together. Standing up for young and talented immigrants feels right, then you will want to stand up for the parents that raised them. We need to work together to keep American moving forward.

Rep. Gutierrez introduces into the record an op-ed written by Rep. Coffman in the Denver Post and an editorial in the Bakersfield Californian praising Rep. Valadao for his work on immigration reform.

3:44pm Panel II begins. Dr. Barrett Duke of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention begins his testimony. He believes that Congress should see this as one piece of a bigger piece of immigration reform, including addressing the needs of other undocumented immigrants that are not DREAMers.

Ms. Margie McHugh of the Migration Policy Institute begins her testimony. She will testify to the demographic characteristics of immigrants who entered before the age of 16 and were continuously presented for at least five years. She testifies that approximately 1.5-2.0 million youth meet the requirements, but far fewer would gain green cards/citizens because of socio-demographic consideration.

Ms. Pamela Rivera begins her testimony. She shares her personal story of living in a mixed status family.

Ms. Rosa Velazquez of the Arkansas Coalition for DREAM begins her testimony. She testifies that her mother sacrificed everything to ensure her children were able to be successful and must be included in any solution to fix our broken immigration system.

Question and Answer session begins.
Rep. Goodlatte: Ms. Velazquez said she didn't think there should be any difference between herself and her parents. Do you think your parents would be supportive of legislation that gave your sister a path to citizenship, but treated them differently?
Rivera A: Yes, of course, my parents want what's best for us, but at the same time the pain of not having my parents with us is not something that can be put into words.
Rep. Goodlatte: What If your mother was here and was given some legal status, just not put on a path to citizenship?
Rivera A: My mother, even in Colombia, still thinks of herself as an American. I wouldn't be ok with that, I know what sacrifices they made.
Rep. Goodlatte: How do we ensure that we don't have people bringing children in the future?
Duke A: E-Verify and border security are important components on reform to halt future illegal immigration.
Rep. Goodlatte: What should happen to young illegal immigrants who don't show a commitment to higher education or the military. What should we do with those who don't?
Duke A: I think the rest of them should be considered along with the rest of the 10 million or so.

Rep. Lofgren: Very powerful testimonies from Ms. Rivera and Velazquez. I was thinking about the relationship between parents and children, I would do anything for them and I think you're saying the same about them. When you're pitting sons and daughters against their parents, you're creating a system that is unhealthy. What I hear you saying is that you won't permit that, your mother being thrown to the side of the road.
Rivera A: Yes, that's right.
Rep. Lofgren: Mr. Duke we don't agree on much, but we do agree on immigration. what is the position on citizenship of the Evangelical Immigration Table.
Duke A: We should not be creating second class citizens in this country, everyone should have the opportunity to raise to the level of citizenship.
Rep. Lofgren: When the House took up the DREAM Act in 2010, some members of the House took to the floor and called it the Nightmare Act saying that Americans would be deprived of jobs.
Duke A: We know businesses are looking for more workers currently, the best thing we can do is create the best qualified and educated workforce we can.
Rep. Lofgren: Whenever we have a hearing like this I'm always struck by the courage of undocumented Americans, I think of them as aspiring Americans.

Rep. King: Dr. Duke, you quoted the "Sins of the Father," but it seems you wouldn't punish the parents either.
Duke A: I'm not saying we shouldn't hold the parents accountable, there do need to be restitutions and penalties.

Rep. Conyers: The separation of the children, the DREAMers, from their parents is something that still troubles me. I'd like to see if the witnesses share any of this unease with me.
Duke A: We must address the needs in a comprehensive manner.
Rivera A: I need my parents, I had to choose between having my sister or my mother at my wedding.

Rep. Jordan (R-OH): You are all in favor of citizenship for DREAMers, their parents and all 11 million undocumented immigrants. Is there anything you see in the Southern Baptist Convention that says that border security must be met before citizenship is possible?
Duke A: Yes we do, but we do believe that it must be done in a package manner.

Rep. Gutierrez: How important is it to you as a USC that you get your mom back?
Rivera A: There's so many things you take for granted about having your mother around, I can't imagine how difficult it is for my mother.
Rep. Gutierrez: There are certain things that dads just can't do, that only moms can do. This isn't about the Senate bill, we can draft one in the House. What we're doing is worth it, I'm ready to accept things that I don't like because the alternative is the kind of pain you've just heard from these young ladies.

Rep. Labrador: I submit that the treatment you would receive as an illegal immigrant in Colombia would be much different than the treatment you received here. I am hoping to remove some of these bans that prevent you from bringing your mother back here. People who come into the U.S. on an H-1B visa also don't have a right to apply for citizenship, so I disagree that not putting parents of DREAMers on a path to citizenship is "second class status," because we already do that.

Rep. Jackson-Lee: I believe that we have held human lives in the balance for too long.

Rep. Amodei (R-NV): The hardest thing to do is to go back to our districts and say we did nothing. Ms. Velazquez, what do you think your mother was thinking when she came here with you, what is the piece we're missing?

5:11pm Hearing concludes.