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Balance attempted on immigration

| Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2013, 7:19 p.m.

WASHINGTON — Republicans in the House of Representatives kicked off their first hearing on immigration on Tuesday with a stated goal of harmonizing the principles of humanity and the rule of the law.

Members of the House Judiciary Committee met on a wave of comprehensive immigration proposals from President Obama and a bipartisan group of senators calling for a path to citizenship for the 11 million illegal immigrants now residing in the United States.

But the gathering emphasized how many House Republicans still oppose granting a path to citizenship, which several committee members referred to as “amnesty.”

“The question of the day,” said House Judiciary Committee Chairman Robert Goodlatte, R-Va., was whether there were any signs of compromise between the “extremes of mass deportation and path to citizenship.”

“America is a nation of immigrants,” he said. “Everyone among us can go back a few or several generations to our own relatives who came to America in search of a better life for themselves and their families. But we are also a nation of laws.”

Julian Castro, the Democratic mayor of San Antonio, testified on behalf of a path to citizenship.

He cited the hearing as a further example that the country is “on the cusp of real progress.” But he warned lawmakers that any plan that doesn't include a path to citizenship risks creating a population of “second-class noncitizens.”

Castro joined seven experts on immigration who spoke about proposals to rework the laws, attract more high-skilled immigrant workers and improve border security.

Julie Myers Wood, a former head of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said any new legislation must consist of stronger employment verification systems and improve the resources of agencies that were charged with enforcing immigration laws. “If we're going to do this again, we've got to get enforcement right and get it right from the get-go, or otherwise will be in this situation again,” she said.

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