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Immigration to begin path through Congress in May

The House will take a piecemeal approach toward immigration next month, just as the Senate begins the formal process of tweaking its carefully-crafted comprehensive reform proposal beginning May 9.

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Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) (R), Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, and Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC) speak about immigration during a news conference on Capitol Hill, April 25, 2013 in Washington, DC.

Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, told reporters that his panel would begin working on a "step-by-step" process to move separate bills dealing with different elements of the nation's immigration system. 

But that process is unlikely to include a measure giving undocumented immigrants a pathway to U.S. citizenship, a sticking point that has scuttled past efforts to overhaul immigration laws. 

"I prefer not to see a special pathway to citizenship, but a status that we're to give them, some kind of legal status, that is certainly something that we should consider," Goodlatte told reporters.

The chairman's effort will play out just as the Senate Judiciary Committee begins its "mark-up," a formal revision process, of a bipartisan immigration proposal crafted in painstaking detail by the immigration "Gang of Eight." That plan includes a pathway to citizenship, a provision which Republican negotiators have acknowledged is essential to winning over Democrats to support measures to strengthen border security.

Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., expresses that his group's immigration reform bill would have flagged a discrepancy on Boston bombing suspect's Tamerlan Tsarnaev airline ticket in 2012.

And while there is a stealthy group of lawmakers in the House working on their own analogue to the Senate "Gang of Eight" legislation, Goodlatte's effort represents the most significant legislative action to date in the Republican-controlled chamber.

The alternative approaches could come to loggerheads this summer, if the Senate passes a comprehensive immigration reform law, while the House only manages to approve limited elements of an immigration overhaul. House GOP leaders would then have to decide whether to bring up a hypothetical Senate bill for consideration, or stick with a kind of piecemeal approach in the House, a decision on which the fate of immigration reform could turn.

On the flip side, the differing votes on immigration proposals could allow House Republicans an opportunity to voice their support (or opposition) for immigration proposals on which they might not otherwise have a chance to vote.

Still, one of the chief conservative proponents of the comprehensive approach, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, was careful to applaud the effort in the House, and portray it as consistent with the senate's approach.

"I welcome the constructive ideas put forward by Chairman Goodlatte in these immigration bills that address workplace enforcement and the agricultural labor that’s so critical to our nation’s food supply," Rubio said in a statement. "From my discussions with him in recent months, I know Chairman Goodlatte is deeply committed to fixing our broken immigration system and ending de facto amnesty, and he’s put forth two important proposals to move us in that direction."

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