Republican Congressmen Agree: Young, Adorable Illegal Immigrants Might Get a Pass

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
July 3 2013 11:14 AM

Republican Congressmen Agree: Young, Adorable Illegal Immigrants Might Get a Pass

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House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte, right, supports immigration reform for you.

Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images

It's a beautiful thing, the birth of a talking point. As they fan out across their districts taking questions from constituents, Republicans are largely avoiding the sort of chaos that dogged Democrats in 2009. (The surge of angry citizens at that summer's town hall meetings dragged down support for Obamacare more than the party wanted to admit.) But they are encountering young, sympathetic people who ask whether the government wants to deport them. The answer is universal: Hey, you guys might OK.

David Weigel David Weigel

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

The message comes from the top, from House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte, whose experience at a Tuesday town hall is recounted here by Bloomberg.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte made the comments at a town hall meeting last night in Lynchburg, Virginia, following a teary plea from a 16-year-old high school student whose parents are undocumented immigrants.
“People like you should be addressed,” Goodlatte told Dulce Elias, who said she came to the U.S. from Mexico as a 3-year-old. “Maybe for someone like you,” legislation “could include a path to citizenship,” he said.
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There's unusual media attention on Goodlatte, because he's actually influential here and he's not far from D.C. But the messaging is consistent even in red states. From a safe GOP district in Oklahoma:

[Rep. James] Lankford said he supports a path to citizenship for the children of immigrants who entered this country illegally, but not for those who were adults.
"I separate a 2-year-old who was brought over with a parent from a parent who violated the law," he said.

From southeast Texas, in the district that was shored up for Rep. Blake Farenthold after redistricting:

“There are some people facing deportation that were brought here as very young children, they speak only English, they’re the victims,” he said. “We’ve spent all this money educating them, we need their productivity.”
The Congressman said he also supports an end to “birthright citizenship” — the notion that anyone born on U.S. soil is automatically a citizen — as a way of slowing down “chain immigration.”

That last bit isn't part of the the messaging, but no matter—here's how Republicans are trying to short-circuit the emotionally powerful appeal of DREAMers and young 'uns.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter.