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Will Gowdy, Goodlatte Be Smarter on Immigration than Smith, King?

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goodlatte gowdyLeadership on the House Judiciary Committee has recently changed hands—Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) is now the chair of Judiciary, while Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC) chairs the Immigration Subcommittee.  We’ve written posts on both of them recently about how their records aren’t particularly distinguishable from their notoriously anti-immigrant colleagues, Reps. Steve King (R-IA) and Lamar Smith (R-TX):

Goodlatte opposes efforts to create guest-worker programs, or grant amnesty to illegal aliens. He spoke out against the DREAM Act when the House voted on the measure in December of 2010, calling it “unfair” and “ripe for fraud.”

Goodlatte isn’t a new player in immigration.  In 2007, he partnered with Lamar Smith and Steve King to float an extremist, anti-immigrant bill as an alternative to the McCain-Kennedy legislation that was being debated at the time.   The McCain-Kennedy legislation was supported by none other than President Bush–but Goodlatte wanted to sink that compromise in favor of something far more right-wing.

Goodlatte has also earned an “A+” rating from the restrictionist group NumbersUSA AND a “Blue Ribbon” from them for being “5 for 5” on co-sponsoring their five favorite bills (including ones ending birthright citizenship and making E-Verify mandatory).  The “5 for 5″ thing is pretty big–of the current Three Amigos, only Iowa’s Rep. Steve King has earned the same Blue Ribbon rating, and he’s the guy who has promised to sue Obama over the president’s deferred action for DREAMers program.  As NumbersUSA wrote about the Blue Ribbon designation, “Many Members of Congress will run for re-election this year claiming to be a friend of American workers and an opponent of destructive mass immigration (illegal and legal). But if they haven’t earned the 5/5 Blue Ribbon, a voter has reason to suspect their full commitment.”


Gowdy supported Lamar Smith’s STEM Jobs Act…he’s earned an “A-“ rating from restrictionist group NumbersUSA, and co-sponsored a bill that would have prohibited the Department of Justice from suing states that passed punitive anti-immigrant laws, like Arizona and Alabama.

He opposed President Obama’s recent deferred action for DREAMers (DACA) announcement, challenging Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano over the Obama Administration’s use of prosecutorial discretion.

In recent days, however, these new chairman have lain low and given interviews seemingly much more open to immigration reform and citizenship than diehards like Steve King.  And a few of their slightly more moderate friends on in Congress—like Rep. Ted Poe of Texas and Rep. Mike Coffman of Colorado—have made strides toward reforming themselves on immigration issues (Poe said he’s eager for reform and Coffman has just introduced a bill that would let DREAMers enlist in the military).  So, as tomorrow’s hearing begins and the immigration debate progresses, we’ll be curious to see how the new chairmen of the Judiciary Committee and Immigration Subcommittee shape up.  Will they be more like King or Coffman?  Will they be open to the type of immigration reform that we MUST pass this year?  Or will they insist on sticking their heads back into the sand, future of the GOP be damned?

UPDATE: We’re not the only ones imploring these Congressmen to do better on immigration.  Here’s a letter released this morning from Virginia DREAMers to Rep. Bob Goodlatte, asking him to “stand on the right side of immigration”:

Dear Representative Goodlatte,

Throughout the years we have seen the immigration debate take various twists, turns and surprises: Reagan, the most revered Republican figure today, granted a broad amnesty, while Obama, who has very sympathetic immigration rhetoric and is often denounced as a “radical liberal” by the Right, has deported 1.5 million undocumented immigrants, more than any previous administration. After the drama of the filibuster of the DREAM Act in the 2010 Lame Duck session and the promises made, broken and made again on comprehensive immigration reform, we have another opportunity which is being extended from both sides of the aisle in the Senate for reasonable immigration reform.  This is why today we call on you, as the Chair of the House Judiciary Committee, to stand on the right side of humane and practical immigration reform.

It is no secret that Republicans lost the last election by a sizable margin, nor is it a secret who voted against them: in addition to the African American vote that Obama easily picked up, he also received 71% of the Latino vote and 73% of the Asian vote. Why is this?  Both groups are immigrant-rich: most Asians in the United States learned English as a second language, and there is no group more strongly associated with the immigration debate than Latinos. Many U.S. native Latinos feel that anything said about their undocumented friends or family targets their entire community via proxy, because “there but for the grace of God goes us” is a strong sentiment within a community where nearly everyone is related to, or at least knows, an immigrant. And an increasing population of Latino and Asian Americans in Virginia decided to side with the President on this issue.

The way in which the Republican Party cost themselves votes from immigrant-rich communities is clear: Mitt Romney, along with the majority of his party, pushed Arizona’s SB 1070, “self-deportation” and a promised to veto the DREAM Act.  In addition to policy, the Latino community felt insulted by the harsh, anti-immigrant rhetoric. Meanwhile, although he was deporting more undocumented immigrants than anyone else had ever deported, Obama issued the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program to help DREAMers, the most sympathetic members of the Latino and Asian communities; is it any wonder that Latinos, despite the high numbers of deportations, voted for President Obama?

While it is certainly understandable that fighting this bill may be an accurate extension of the Republican Party platform presented during the 2012 election, this is clearly not what the American people want. Within days of the election, even Sean Hannity, known for a strong anti-immigration stand, came out saying that the Republican Party cannot continue to pursue overly restrictive immigration policies if they ever want to win the White House again, and argued for a pathway to citizenship. This sudden 180 has been echoed throughout the talking points of the GOP, however, we still wait to see concrete policy come out of this sentiment.

With an electorate that has strongly come out for immigration reform, and midterm elections approaching, all eyes will be on the immigration bill put forward, making it impossible to quietly kill in committee.  The question now is will you, in your significant capacity as Chair of the House Judiciary Committee, help the bill through or, in a very publicly way which will reflect on the party, hold up the bill and place both himself and the GOP on the losing side of history alongside company like Strom Thurmond filibustering the Civil Rights Act of 1957.


DREAMers of Virginia