How the Elections Will Affect the Immigration Subcommittees

By David North, November 7, 2012

The elections — with one major exception — did little to change the composition of the immigration subcommittees in the House and Senate. Each subcommittee has, and probably will continue to have, 11 members. The leadership of each subcommittee will stay with the party that now holds it.

The big change will come on the House side, where a new Republican member, probably Steve King (Iowa), will replace retiring chair Elton Gallegly (Calif.); the latter chose not to seek reelection when faced with an awkward new set of boundaries. Both men are for limited immigration, with King's views and voice being stronger than those of the retiring chair. King currently is the vice chair of the subcommittee.

There may be another change involving another California Republican, veteran lawmaker Dan Lungren, who is locked in a likely re-count situation. This year, as two years ago, he was opposed by Dr. Ami Bera, a physician and a Democrat. Bera was 184 votes ahead of Lungren on election night with thousands of absentee votes to count and perhaps a recount to follow.

Lungren is a strong conservative and was once his state's attorney general. Bera, if elected, will become the first Hindu to serve in the House. What committee assignments he would get is, of course, not known.

The other four Republican members of the current subcommittee, Louie Gohmert and Ted Poe, from adjoining districts in Texas, Trey Gowdy (S.C.), and Dennis Ross (Fla.), were re-elected and are likely to hold on to their current assignments.

The same can be said for the four Democrats, ranking member Zoe Lofgren and Maxine Waters (both Calif.), Sheila Jackson Lee (Texas), and Pedro Pierluisi, the nonvoting delegate from Puerto Rico.

Pierluisi is a member of the New Progressive Party of Puerto Rico and sits with the Democrats in the House. He is a former secretary of justice (i.e., attorney general) of the island. I have always been puzzled by his presence on the subcommittee, as Puerto Rico is not a place that attracts migrants — in fact the migratory flow is away from the island, not toward it. Perhaps the House Democratic leadership wanted a Hispanic lawyer on the subcommittee and told him to take the slot.

The Senate subcommittee membership will probably remain the same, except that retiring Republican Senator Jon Kyl (Ariz.) will be replaced by another member of his party. Democratic subcommittee chair Sen. Chuck Schumer (N.Y.), once a member of the House subcommittee, and his colleagues, Senators Patrick Leahy (Vt.), Dianne Feinstein (Calif.), Dick Durbin (Ill.), Al Franken (Minn.), and Richard Blumenthal (Conn.) are all likely to return.

The probable returning Republicans are the subcommittee's ranking member John Cornyn (Texas), Chuck Grassley (Iowa), Orrin Hatch (Utah), and Jeff Sessions (Ala.).

California Democrat Howard Berman is a former member of the House subcommittee and the author of the very permissive farm worker provisions in the IRCA legalization of 1986. He lost to another Democratic incumbent, Brad Sherman, in this week's election. Two sitting members of the House from the same party running against each other in the general election is highly unusual, but happened this year in California because of that state's new election law and new districting.

The words "probably" and "likely" are often used above, as sometimes members move to other committee assignments of their own volition or because of leadership decisions. The firm committee assignments should be announced shortly.