A Hearing-by-Hearing Look at the GOP's Immigration Agenda
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Shortly after Republicans gained a majority in the House after midterm elections, many attempted to predict the Republican game plan on immigration—which, as you can imagine, was no herculean task considering the GOP’s three-ring enforcement spectacular these last few years. Recall also the recent Republican opposition to the DREAM Act, opposition they rationalized using the “border first” mantra. But as the 112th Congress convenes this week, we get an actual look at upcoming congressional committee hearings and what they might reveal about Republican leaderships’ plans for immigration—namely, a statewide approach to ramped-up enforcement measures, more border security and an attack on the 14th amendment.
As immigration hawk Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX) assumes control of the House Judiciary Committee this month and Rep. Steve King (R-IA) the Immigration Subcomittee, many rightfully predict that plans for broad immigration reform will take a backseat to intense scrutiny of the administration’s approach to immigration enforcement and a focus on statewide enforcement measures. According to Politico:
Smith’s first two hearings will focus on expanding E-Verify, a voluntary electronic system for checking the immigration status of workers that President Barack Obama supports and scrutinizing the administration’s record on worksite enforcement.
In the same article, Rep. Smith reportedly downplayed agenda items such as reducing the level of legal immigration, family migration or work visas and instead said he wanted to focus on “creating and protecting jobs.”
Meanwhile, soon-to-be chairman of the Committee on Homeland Security, Rep. Peter King (R-NY), reportedly intends to “hold hearings, push bills and seek funding to bolster the fight against illegal immigration,” which includes an emphasis on workplace raids and enforcement programs like Secure Communities. Rep. King cited a “lack of urgency” by the current administration as the impetus for his hyped immigration enforcement agenda.
On the state level, Arizona lawmakers Sen. Russell Pearce and Rep. John Kavanagh will join State Representative Daryl Metcalfe (R-PA) and state legislators from around the country this week in Washington to create and disseminate model legislation repealing the 14th Amendment—the amendment which affirms that, with very few exceptions, all persons born in the U.S. are U.S. citizens, regardless of the immigration status of their parents. Aside from questions of constitutionality, Rep. Kavanagh said that this birthright citizenship proposal will not detract from a focus on the state’s flailing economy.
The budget and jobs will be the No. 1 priority, but we’ll still be able to deal with a lot of other important issues like illegal immigration.
Right. Maybe state Rep. Kavanagh momentarily forgot that Arizona’s SB1070 ended up costing Arizona hundreds of millions of dollars in lost revenue. Likewise, while Rep. Lamar Smith and state Rep. Kavanagh both claim their intentions are to prioritize economic recovery and job growth, one wonders how they rationalize the fact that expansion of enforcement measures like E-Verify would actually hurt the economy—to the tune of $10 billion a year according to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce as well as a decrease in federal revenues .
But then, revitalizing the economy and growing jobs are never part of the equation when it comes to ramped-up state and federal immigration enforcement measures. Hopefully, most Americans recognize that these enforcement initiatives are neither growing our economy nor solving our immigration problems.
Seth Hoy is a writer at Immigration Impact.