Program: Al Punto with Jorge Ramos
Content: Congressman Bob Goodlatte, Republican, Virginia 6th District
Air Date: Sunday, May 3, 2014
BG: Congressman Bob Goodlatte, Republican, Virginia 6th District
JR: Jorge Ramos
JB: Speaker of the House, John Boehner
JR: Congressman, good luck. Thanks so much for talking to us again.
BG: It’s good to be with you and your viewers.
JR: Thank you so much. Congressman, just a few days ago in California you said that it was entirely possible to vote this summer on up to seven immigration bills. Is that true?
BG: We are still working on a number of bills as you know. Four have passed out of the House Judiciary Committee and one out of the Homeland Security Committee. But we have not yet been able to find the Republican majority for bills addressing the status of those who are not lawfully present in the United States.
JR: Speaker Boehner was right then when he said to Republicans last Tuesday that he will not push for immigration reform business. So nothing is going to happen this year.
BG: Well, I wouldn’t agree with that. We are going to continue to try to make sure that we do immigration reform, because it’s important we do it. Both for enforcement of the laws, and for the legal status of those who are not lawfully here. And our legal immigration programs need to be reformed to address this issue. But the Speaker, I think was perhaps showing too much frustration about this. And I think he regrets that. Because there are many in the House who know that all three areas of the immigration problem need to be addressed. And we need to steadily work on it to find the right opportunity to do that. And we should never declare that this effort is dead, because the problem is going to go on and it needs to be resolved.
JR: So, let me see if I understand it. So Speaker Boehner is saying that nothing is going to happen this year. And you say that it could happen. So who’s right? Who should we believe?
BG: Well, I am saying that the Speaker was expressing frustration with members. And the fact of the matter is that many members of the House want to do immigration reform. So my job and the job of others is to keep making sure that we work on it to get it done the right way.
JR: Before that, of course, Speaker Boehner made fun of those Republicans who were still reluctant to support immigration reform. I’m sure you saw it, and this is what he said.
JB: But here’s the attitude. Oh, don’t make me do this. Oh, this is too hard. You should hear ‘em. You know, we get elected to make choices. We get elected to solve problems. And it’s remarkable to me how many of my colleagues just don’t want to, they’re humans.
JR: That was Speaker Boehner. He said, later making fun of Republicans who are reluctant to support immigration reform. But he was saying something very important. He said, that your job is to solve problems. And Congressman, your party hasn’t been solving immigration problems since 1986.
BG: We have a number of members who want to solve all three areas of immigration reform starting with enforcement of our immigration laws. Also doing legal immigration reform. And finding an appropriate status for people who are not lawfully here. The Speaker I know regrets having said what he said. And it nonetheless remains that this problem needs to be addressed. The Speaker wants to address it. Others do too. But we want to do it the right way. And I think the Speaker has also made it very clear that the President and his lack of enforcement of our laws and his ongoing efforts to find ways around the Congress. ‘Cause this whole issue of the President with his pen and his cell phone applies to this issue as well. And we are trying to get people to pass difficult legislation and make tough decisions when they don’t trust that the President will even enforce the laws after they’re passed, it makes it a lot harder to get people to come to the table to agree on the necessary legislation to address these problems.
JR: But Congressman, many Latinos don’t agree with you. Many Latinos think that President Barack Obama has enforced the laws and to an extreme way. He has deported, as you know, more than 2 million immigrants right now. The number of undocumented immigrants has decreased from 12 million to 11 million. So, he has been enforcing the law.
BG: Let me make it very clear. I don’t agree with that. First of all, the President himself has acknowledged, and the Secretary of Homeland Security Johnson has acknowledged that those numbers are basically cooked. The 369,000 people that were deported last year, two-thirds, almost two-thirds of those people were apprehended at the border. And in prior administrations they would not have been counted, because they were not put through the deportation process. They were simply turned back.
JR: But now they are.
BG: So now they’re put through the process of a brief time. They are put through the process, well, either way, they’re sent out of the country. But they count those numbers now where they did not count them in previous administrations. And therefore…
JR: But he has deported 2 million, Congressman.
BG: …two-thirds of 369,000 are that way. But the numbers are not accurate when he claims he’s deported 2 million people. So the people that are turned back were turned back in previous administrations. But the interior…
JR: So you want him to deport more people. Is that…
BG: …forces in the interior of the country. They’re not being enforced.
JR: Alright, so…
BG: And that is the problem. Only people who committed serious crimes.
JR: So your point is that you want more people to be deported?
BG: My point is that I want the President to enforce the law, and that way Congress will feel the pressure to reach a resolution to deal with the people who are lawfully here, who have been law abiding citizens. And if they meet the terms that the law might provide, like paying taxes and paying a fine, and learning civics about the United States, and other things like that, we could reach a solution. But if the President keeps showing that he won’t enforce current law, then we’re going to have this ongoing problem where people in the Congress don’t trust that. And that creates a problem for me. Trying to convince my fellow members to do it.
JR: But the White House is saying exactly the opposite. That they are enforcing the law. And not only that, the number of undocumented immigrants has decreased from 12 million to 11 million. Some of the cities along the border are the safest in the whole country. The number of apprehensions has decreased in important numbers. So what else do you want to do at the border? Because many people think that it’s just an excuse Congressman, for the Republican Party not do to anything.
BG: I don’t want to do anything that doesn’t have the strong support of the American people. But what I do want to do and I know they want to see is not only enforcement at the border, but also enforcement in the interior of the United States. So if there were to be a resolution of this issue, the resolution would be that in the future no one person, not the President of the United States, no one else would have the ability to have an on/off switch and say, well, I’m not going to enforce the law with regard to large numbers of people. At the same time that we find an appropriate status for people who are already here and are not lawfully present in the United States. And I think the overwhelming majority of Americans would agree to do that but both have to take place. And when the President says, if the Congress doesn’t do it, I’ve got a pen and a cell phone, and I’ll do it myself. That builds mistrust and his solutions will not be long lasting. They will not solve the problem for people who are not lawfully here. Nor will they solve the problem for enforcement. And that’s what’s got to change.
JR: But you’re blaming the President of the United States for not having immigration reform. And it is your party, Congressman, who has been blocking immigration reform. Why is your party so afraid of immigration reform?
BG: I am blaming the President.
JR: It’s your party Congressman. I’m sorry, but it’s your party is…
BG: …for not enforcing the law and making it harder for those of us who want to do it, including the Speaker of the House to get people to say, yes, I’ll come to the table…
JR: But it’s your party whos’s blocking it, Congressman.
BG: …because I trust that if I agree to a new provision in the law that, under those circumstances then we can count on this President and future Presidents actually enforcing the law. That’s the problem that we have.
JR: But would say that it is precisely your party who’s blocking immigration reform in the House. And it’s Speaker Boehner who’s blocking immigration reform in the House. You’re the ones.
BG: Absolutely not. Absolutely not. Because they are two issues here.
JR: Congressman, you’re blocking it in the House. Who’s blocking it? You control the House. You’re blocking it in the House. Who else is doing it then?
BG: There are two issues here. Enforcement of the law and finding a legal status for people who are not lawfully here. The Senate bill gives legal status to millions of people before they ever put anything in place to enforce the law. And as a result of that it’s just like 1986 when people got an easy pathway to citizenship. And the law was never enforced. So now we have far more people in the United States illegally than we had before. So this has to be an agreement, an understanding that in the future there’s going to be enforcement of the law. Not just people who commit crimes, but if you’re in the country, you’re not lawfully here, you’re required to leave. Not if you have a serious level of crime, but if you’re here and not lawfully here, you have to leave. And in exchange for that, people who are already here would be allowed to remain. And that is what will take it to solve this problem. And it’s not just Republicans who haven’t come to an agreement on that, it’s Democrats as well. And the President makes this problem more severe when he does not agree to enforce current law and put the pressure on the Congress to say the current law needs to be changed. It does need to be changed. I agree with that.
JR: I’m listening to you, Congressman. I really do. But don’t you think that all this is hurting your image, the party’s image with the Hispanic community? Many Latinos think that some Republicans are, I’m talking about immigrants…
BG: We’re not talking about image. We’re talking about trust. The issue is trust.
JR: Yeah, but many Latinos are blaming the Republican Party for blocking the immigration reform. You know that, and this is hurting the party’s image. Many Latinos think that some Republicans are anti-immigrant or even racist. Are you worried that these might, that your party might lose…
BG: Well, Jorge you know, Jorge you know that I was an immigration lawyer before I ever came to the Congress of the United States. I helped people…
JR: I do know that, yeah.
BG: …from more than 70 countries come here, lawfully.
JR: But you do know that the party has a problem with the Hispanic community. You know, that there’s an image problem. Many people think that, that many Republicans are anti-immigrant. That that’s why they don’t want immigration reform.
BG: I don’t disagree that we need to solve this problem. But the Hispanic community and the larger community across the country knows that this is not just about the legal status of people who are not lawfully here. It’s also about enforcing the law and doing reform of our legal immigration programs. All three of those things have to take place to have an immigration system that works properly. And the President is not helping that problem.
JR: And many people would say, many Latinos might say that it is Republicans who are really the problem here. So, at the end, Congressman…
BG: Republicans need to step up and work on this. I agree with that. But so do Democrats. And it is not simply a matter of saying that Republicans are blocking this because Republicans have ideas of how they want to solve this. And we are working on this constantly, daily. And that includes having greater enforcement of the laws in the future and trying to find a way that the average American can trust that if they find a legal status for people not lawfully here, they will also trust that our immigration laws will be enforced in the future. And they don’t have that trust today.
JR: Then finally…
BG: The President is not helping that.
JR: I’m getting the impression Congressman that nothing is going to happen. That there will be no immigration reform this year.
BG: Well, that’s not true. That’s not true. Recently I met with leaders of the Mexican government to talk about what they can do to help make sure that citizens of Central American countries don’t work their way up through Mexico and appear at our border. And they showed great interest, renewed interest that hasn’t been there before to work with the United States to help secure their Southern border. They have been doing more to help with enforcement of our laws. That is progress. And we’ll continue to reach out and find people who want help us do that, so that we can get the trust of the American people, that laws will be enforced, our borders will be secure. But also that the interior enforcement will take place and that people in the future who enter this country illegally will not be allowed to stay. And in exchange for that, we should be looking at an appropriate way to allow people who are not lawfully here to have a legal status to stay here if they have abided by the laws of this country. If they have paid a fine, paid back taxes and done other things. Many of which are in the Senate bill, by the way, to do just that. That is what we need to work toward. And I am committed to continuing to work toward it.
JR: If Republicans are really interested in immigration reform, why don’t you just take the Senate bill?
BG: The overwhelming majority of Republicans in the House are interested in immigration reform. But they have got to trust that this will lead to enforcement of the law.
JR: Interested, but they’re not moving Congressman, they’re not doing anything.
BG: Well, but remember this is a part of a larger problem with this President not enforcing the laws, and there’s a whole host of areas with regard to the Obama.
JR: But you’re still blaming the President, Congressman, with all due respect, and Republicans haven’t moved. I mean if you really want it, the Republican Party really wanted to do something right now, they could vote today on the House. And you’re not doing that.
BG: We’re working to do it. But it doesn’t make it possible. When I go to numbers and I say…
JR: But it’s not enough Congressman. You know, it’s not enough. Working to do it is not enough. I mean…
BG: When I go to, when I go to members in Congress.
JR: You can vote, and you’re not voting on that.
BG: When I go to members of Congress and ask them to look to this and to vote. They say, why should I vote for something if I don’t believe the President will even enforce it, even after it becomes law. And we have got to change that element of trust or we’re not going to get this problem solved. And it’s a two-way street. Republicans have got to build up their trust, but so does the President in understanding that he’s got to trust the Congress as the legislative body to pass laws and not try to assume that authority himself. And it’s not just in immigration that this problem has come about. But immigration is being hurt by it. Because he won’t enforce laws in other areas and there is a general mistrust that passing laws doesn’t accomplish what the Congress, which works very hard to work on compromising things, it’s not like one person being able to say, I like this, I don’t like that, I’m going to enforce this, I’m not going to enforce that. In the Congress people come from all parts of the country, all different political points of view, all different backgrounds. And they have to hammer out hard fought compromises on how to solve our nation’s problems. And when the President says, I’m going to do it anyway, or I’m going to do it my way if you don’t, that’s a serious problem that hinders the ability of Congress to legislate, not just in this area, but other areas as well.
JR: Congressman, thank you so much. You’re being very generous with your time. Thank you so much for talking to us.
BG: Thank you Jorge. Glad to talk to you about it.
JR: Thanks so much.