U.S. Rep. Joe Barton, R-Ennis, is making the surprising move to weigh in on the divisive national immigration debate with a bill of his own.
Barton said Sunday on Lone Star Politics on KXAS that his bill would give adults in the U.S. illegally a legal status but not citizenship while minor children brought to the country illegally, sometimes called Dreamers, would qualify as citizens. It would also emphasize border security, a central issue for Republican lawmakers from Texas.
Barton’s approach combines elements of legislation being considered in Congress but does not include the most contentious issue: a path to citizenship for illegal residents, which opponents decry as amnesty.
“If the only illegal act they committed was coming in the country without proper documentation, we put them on a path to legalization, not citizenship,” Barton said.
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But Barton, who represents parts of Tarrant County including Arlington, said he sees the situation differently for the children brought to the U.S. by their parents.
“They are Americans and we need to acknowledge that and find a way, to those that wish to be a part of the American dream for opportunity, to make them legal,” he said.
“Republicans need to start talking about it,” he said. “I’m a part of the majority party in the largest state that’s still Republican and I want to keep it that way.”
The Senate passed a comprehensive immigration reform bill last year that includes a path to citizenship and has split the GOP in the House.
The House Judiciary Committee, where Barton’s bill will be referred when he introduces it, is trying to broker a solution.
The conservative Federation for American Immigration Reform was not enthusiastic about Barton’s approach. “It sounds an awful lot like amnesty,” spokesman Ira Mehlman said. “I’m not sure he’s saying anything new at this point.”