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Do Anti-Immigrant Zealots Still Speak for House GOP?

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Curtain Rises on Immigration in 113th Congress as House Judiciary Committee Holds Tuesday Hearing

In recent years, the anti-immigrant wing of the Republican Party has driven the GOP’s immigration rhetoric and policies in a hard-line, inhumane, illogical, and tone-deaf direction.  After Mitt Romney “self-deported himself from the White House – in the words of Republican strategist Ana Navarro – many in the Republican Party seemed to get that there needs to be a new direction.

On Tuesday, the curtain will officially rise on immigration policy in the 113th Congress, as the Republican-controlled House of Representatives’ Judiciary Committee holds an immigration hearing.  How Republican members behave will reveal whether the House Judiciary Committee, at least, got the memo about the 2012 elections.  However, the main congressional culprits behind the immigration policies that drove the Republican Party off the demographic cliff in 2012 are overrepresented on the House Judiciary Committee.  Among the anti-immigrant rogues gallery on the House Judiciary Committee include Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX), the lead congressional architect of mass-deportation policies; Rep. Steve King (R-IA), the notorious xenophobe who has compared immigrants to dogs and cattle and called immigration a “slow motion Holocaust;” Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI), whose 2005 legislation sought to turn undocumented immigrants and anyone who assisted them into felons, sparking a massive counter-mobilization that continues to the present day; and Rep. Louie “Terror Babies” Gohmert.

The immigration stance of these Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee contrasts sharply with the recent public statements of other top Republicans, including numerous senators (with notable exception of the perpetually indiscreet Senator David Vitter (R-LA)).  Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) said in late January that it is “time to deal” with immigration and told ABC News shortly after the 2012 elections that immigration is “an important issue that I think ought to be dealt with…I think a comprehensive approach is long overdue.”  Tomorrow’s House Judiciary Committee hearing will be a first indication if the Republican House leadership will allow the anti-immigrant loudmouths and diehards in their midst to keep driving the party’s brand image and strategy on immigration.

Also on Tuesday, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) will offer remarks at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) on immigration and other issues.  In November 2012, an aide to Majority Leader Cantor told the Wall Street Journal, “We understand that we can’t keep kicking this can down the road…We’re going to address the 11 million people,” referring to the components of a future immigration reform bill.  At the AEI speech, will Majority Leader Cantor seek to step on the immigration message emanating from the extremist House Republican colleagues on the Judiciary Committee, knowing that they are likely to recycle the “old” Republican viewpoint on immigration?

According to Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice Education Fund, “Tomorrow is a big day for the Republican Party’s image and future ambitions.  Will this be the same old anti-immigrant wine in a new bottle?  Or is the GOP finally ready to start fresh on immigration and work to rebuild its relationship with Latinos and other growing parts of the electorate?”

America’s Voice Education Fund — Harnessing the power of American voices and American values to win common sense immigration reform