By Jim Davenport
U.S. House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn won't support any type of amnesty in plans to overhaul immigration, but he said it may be unfair to force people to travel back to their native countries to apply to re-enter the United States legally.
"I don't think there's a quick fix to this. I don't think there's any simple way to deal with this. And I will not support amnesty for anybody, I mean, that would be rewarding bad behavior," said Clyburn, D-S.C., during a news conference Tuesday.
Clyburn also doesn't think it's fair to require some illegal immigrants to travel to West African nations under so-called touchback requirements before they apply to re-enter the U.S. legally. That would "send somebody back to some of these countries I don't think we want to send them back to," Clyburn said.
"I would love to see us do something with a friendly country that would set up an Ellis Island sort of process outside of the country for people to acknowledge they're in here illegally to then start the process of coming back in," Clyburn said.
One of the goals Clyburn pushed when he ran South Carolina's Human Affairs Commission was getting migrant workers to stay in South Carolina, using the state's schools and health agencies.
"Now all of the sudden, we're saying, you've got to go back," Clyburn said.
U.S. Rep. Bob Inglis, R-S.C., said he is hearing frustration over the immigration issue as he holds town hall meetings with constituents.
"We've got to take action," Inglis said. "They want it done yesterday - many yesterdays ago."
Inglis is opposed to amnesty. But he said requirements to pay fines, wait more than eight years to become a citizen and learn English don't sound like amnesty.
Clyburn said the House will work off the legislation drafted by U.S. Reps. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., and Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill.
"It is a lot different from the Senate bill because I think the Senate bill pays more attention to employer protections than they does to family stabilization. And I think that you have to do both," Clyburn said.
Clyburn also defended Democratic leadership plans to not renew federal tax breaks set to expire in 2010. Extending those or other breaks will depend on budget surpluses coming through a growing economy and it would be irresponsible to do right now, Clyburn said.