"Attempts to group the entire 11 million into one homogenous group in an effort to secure a political remedy will only wind up hurting the most vulnerable," said Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C, who chairs the immigration subcommittee.
Cantor and Goodlatte have not released details of their legislation, but it is likely to be narrower in scope than the DREAM Act, which would have offered legal status to people under age 35 who arrived in the U.S. before age 16 and had lived here for five years and obtained a high school diploma. Slightly more than 2.1 million immigrants could have qualified, according to an analysis by the Migration Policy Institute.
A series of GOP lawmakers voiced support at Tuesday's hearing for legalizing immigrants brought as kids. But the sentiment was not universal.
Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, a leading immigration hardliner, said such an approach would amount to a "backdoor amnesty" that would "sacrifice the rule of law on the altar of political expediency."
King also came under attack for comments he made to the conservative news Website Newsmax last week, where he downplayed the idea that many unauthorized immigrant youth are high-achieving. "For every one who's a valedictorian, there's another 100 out there that weigh 130 pounds and they've got calves the size of cantaloupes because they're hauling 75 pounds of marijuana across the desert," King said.
Rep. Joe Garcia, D-Fla., who testified Tuesday, told King that such language is "offensive and it is beneath the dignity of this body and this country."
Earlier in the day, meanwhile, House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, insisted that though they have rejected the Senate bill, House Republicans are committed to dealing with immigration, they just want to do it in a step-by-step and deliberate fashion.
"Nobody has spent more time trying to fix a broken immigration system than I have," Boehner said.
White House spokesman Jay Carney responded to that with derision.
"The idea that you can — oh, I don't know — declare yourself to have been more committed than anyone to improve our immigration system and then have nothing to show for it is a little laughable," Carney said.
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