Addressing the Immigration Status of Illegal Immigrants Brought to the United States as Children

Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security | 2141 Rayburn House Office Building Washington, DC 20515 | Jul 23, 2013 2:00pm

Opening Statements

Statement of Ranking Member John Conyers, Jr.
Hearing on: “Addressing the Immigration Status of Illegal Immigrants Brought to the United States as Children”
Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security

Tuesday, July 23, 2013 at 2:00 p.m.
2141 Rayburn

     It has been almost three years since the House of Representatives passed the DREAM Act, a bill that would have taken a significant step toward eliminating some of the injustice in our current immigration system.  We have not revisited the issue since that December 2010 vote, so I am encouraged that we are once again discussing it today.

     In fact, I am very encouraged by many of the statements that my Republican colleagues have made about the need to fix our immigration system and treat undocumented immigrants in a fair and realistic manner.

     House Speaker John Boehner said recently that resolving the status of Dreamers is an issue of “basic fairness.”  Majority Leader Eric Cantor said it is “an issue of decency, of compassion.”  Fairness, decency, and compassion—the very same words used by one of our colleagues today, Representative Cory Gardner (R-CO), in his written testimony.

     I am also encouraged by the distinguished speakers who will be testifying before us today.

     In our first panel, we will hear from four of our colleagues.  All four of these members know that doing something only for Dreamers is not enough.  I encourage my colleagues to read the piece that Representative Mike Coffman (R-CO) authored this past weekend in the Denver Post.  It concludes: “The time for comprehensive immigration reform is now.”

     Representative Jeff Denham (R-CA) has also been vocal in his support for comprehensive immigration reform.  He recently said that the need for immigration reform comes up in “every phone call I make, every town hall.  It’s a huge issue in my district.”

     It is a big issue in many districts around the country and I am very glad to have Representative Denham on board.

     In our second panel we have the opportunity to hear from Dr. Barrett Duke of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.  Just last month, the Commission wrote to Congress to say: “A solution that respects the rule of law, treats undocumented immigrants in the nation compassionately, and provides them a tough, yet achievable, earned pathway to citizenship is necessary.”  

     Dr. Duke, I believe your perspective is extremely important on this issue and I am very pleased that you were invited to speak with us today.

     We will also hear from Rosa Velazquez.  Ms. Velazquez was brought to the United States at the age of 5 and has lived in Arkansas for the past 24 years.

     Today she is pursuing two Master’s Degrees.  As the only witness who would herself benefit from the DREAM Act, her contribution to the discussion is critically important.

     I want to make one final point.  We hear a lot about the “rule of law.” I think that makes sense—this is the House Judiciary Committee.  But we are also legislators and it is our job to also make sure that the laws we pass make sense.  That they are fair.  And that they are worthy of respect.

     We all know our immigration system is broken.  It is broken because the laws we passed years ago do not work for American businesses, American families, and the American economy.  In fact, some of the laws have made the problem even worse.

     Respect for the rule of law takes more than just words.  It takes action.  We can best restore the rule of law by rewriting our immigration laws so that they work.  So that they command respect.

     And as we do so, I encourage my colleagues to keep in mind values such as fairness, decency, and compassion.  We should honor those values as we give Dreamers like Ms. Velazquez an opportunity to earn citizenship and realize the American dream.

     But I firmly believe we must also show the same fairness, decency, and compassion to Ms. Velazquez’s parents.  And to the millions of other hardworking undocumented immigrants in our communities today.

     I thank all of our witnesses for joining us today and I look forward to your testimony.

Witnesses

Panel 1

Hon. Mike Coffman, U.S. House of Representatives

Hon. Jeff Denham, U.S. House of Representatives

Hon. Cory Gardner, U.S. House of Representatives

Hon. Luis Guiterrez, U.S. House of Representatives

 

Panel 2

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

Ms. Margie McHugh, Migration Policy Institute

Ms. Pamela Rivera, Washington, DC

Ms. Ms. Rosa Velazquez, Arkansas Coalition for DREAM