Sen. Mark R. Warner, D-Va., on Friday slammed the step-by-step approach to immigration reform proposed by House Republicans without a pathway to citizenship for the nation’s 11 million undocumented immigrants.
“Anyone who thinks we are going to do pieces of this only, and not deal with the overall question, I think is missing the issue,” Warner said in an interview in Richmond.
Warner’s criticism is a response to a push by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Robert W. Goodlatte, R-6th, who kicked off the debate on immigration on the House side last week by unveiling the first of several proposals.
The Agricultural Guestworker Act of 2013 seeks to provide American farmers with a more efficient guest-worker program but does not address improving the rights of workers and a path to citizenship.
Goodlatte said in an interview Tuesday that he is against setting timetables. “It will be done when we have it right,” he said.
Warner said the best way to deal with immigration would be in a comprehensive way, echoing President Barack Obama, who said he wants to sign comprehensive immigration reform legislation before the end of the year.
“There are issues around border security, there are issues around guest workers, there are issues around high-skill immigration, and there are issues with how we are dealing with the 11 million undocumented immigrants,” Warner said.
If all these issues are considered, he said, he would be open to discussing Goodlatte’s step-by-step approach.
“If there are pieces in the House but they take on all the issues — fine,” Warner said. “But if they somehow think they are going to leave the 11 million undocumented on the sidelines and not deal with them, then I don’t think we are going to end up with the kind of solution that the vast majority of Americans want to have.”
Earlier this week, Goodlatte said that the bipartisan 844-page Senate proposal would not garner enough votes from Republicans in the House, who believe the measure is similar to the immigration reform law that Congress passed in 1986 — a law they say included measures on border security that were never enforced, allowing millions of undocumented immigrants to cross the border and stay in the country.
“What you do at the border only addresses a part of this issue from the standpoint of enforcement,” Goodlatte said. “The Senate measure doesn’t deal with many other areas.”
Warner said comparing the new Senate bill to the 1986 measure “doesn’t reflect the current facts.”
The Obama administration, Warner said, has caught and deported more people than any administration in history.
“We’ve spent $18 billion on border security since the past law went into action. This (new) bill will spend another 5 to 6 billon dollars — that’s more than we spend on the drug enforcement agency and more than we spend on the Secret Service — to even further secure the border,” he said.
Warner said the latest Senate bill, which was written by the so-called Gang of Eight, a group of Republican and Democratic senators, “is a good piece of work.”
The bill is “terribly important” for national security and economic prosperity, Warner said. “It would be a great loss to our country if we don’t get it passed,” he said.