The new chair of the House Judiciary Committee has passed over Rep. Steve King (R-IA), the super-conservative hard-line immigration foe, for chairman of the immigration subcommittee.
King was the ranking member of the subcommittee and was expected to take the chair. But the committee chairman, Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX), chose Rep. Elton Gallegly of California instead.
Gallegly (R) is no liberal on immigration. He opposed this year’s attempt at immigration reform, calling it amnesty, and has long supported changing the 14th Amendment so that U.S.-born children of illegal immigrants don’t automatically become citizens. Birthright citizenship is shaping up to be an immigration battleground in the coming months, if certain state legislators have their way.
But he’s also no King. King, as TPM regulars know, is one of the most conservative members of Congress, a tea partier and prone to rather extreme comments. He has said, for example, that Haitians fleeing the aftermath of last year’s earthquake shouldn’t mind being deported because they could help in the relief effort.
Smith — who, like King and Gallegly, supports changes in birthright citizenship — had already signaled that he planned a more moderate take in the committee. He is planning to focus, at least at first, on job-related immigration issues such as making e-Verify mandatory nationwide and looking at the Obama administration’s enforcement of work-site regulations.
“They are what I call 70 percent issues — 70 percent or more of the American people support those efforts,” Smith told Politico. “I think they are popular across the board, and I think they will be appreciated by all American workers regardless of their ethnicity or background or anything else.”