The retirement of Rep. Elton Gallegly (R-CA) is finally nigh, bringing good cheer this season to immigration advocates everywhere. Gallegly, a member of Congress since the 80s, has long been a nativist crusader and one of the anti-immigrant “Three Amigos” on the House Immigration Subcommittee.
His hometown paper, the Ventura County Star, wrote profile piece today on Gallegly’s record on immigration, calling him a “loud, consistent voice in calling for more controls” on immigration. “Over the years,” the paper wrote, “he has accompanied federal agents on immigration raids, sponsored a number of bills to crack down on illegal immigration and presided over congressional hearings on the impact of illegal immigration.”
You could say that. Gallegly was a ring-leader in the effort to enact Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996, the harshest anti-immigration law passed in recent history. Among other things, this law created the 3-and-10-year bars responsible for separating families for years on end and expanded the detention and deportation of immigrants, including long-term lawful permanent residents. He supported the ultra-extremist idea of amending the Constitution so as to end birthright citizenship, pushed for the economy-killing employer verification database known as E-Verify, and advocated for the mass deportation of immigrants (via, as it used to be known, “attrition through enforcement”). And those House hearings? Gallegly and his pals, Reps. Lamar Smith (R-TX) and Steve King (R-IA) held them to pit native-born Americans against immigrants and Latinos against other minorities. It’s not for nothing that we ran an entire campaign asking readers to send in quick blurbs on what they thought about Rep. Gallegly and his anti-immigrant policies, then posted the ads all around the web so everyone would know his name.
And yet, Gallegly and his staff claim that he has maintained good relationships with the Latino community throughout his career. According to the Ventura County Star, “Gallegly’s aides point out that when his congressional district included Oxnard, where a majority of the population is Hispanic, he won 44, 47 and 49 percent of the city’s vote in three elections.”
Hmm, that’s not really evidence that Latinos broadly support Gallegly, but nice try. As for actual evidence against Gallegly, there’s last month’s election, when Latino voters rejected Mitt Romney and his Gallegly-esque anti-immigrant policies by more than a 3-1 margin. Since then, Republicans of all stripes have been going out of their way to guide the GOP toward a more immigrant-and-Latino-friendly future, and away from the Gallegly-sponsored extremism of the past.
As David Rodriguez, Ventura County district director for the League of United Latin American Citizens, told the Ventura County Star:
Gallegly “is going to be remembered as inflexible on the issue of immigration. Although we congratulate him on his service to the country, we feel his position on the issues has taken the Republican Party to where it is now, with fear and concern among Latinos.”