Stability Prevails in the Leadership/Membership of Migration Committees

By David North, November 10, 2016

Tuesday's elections, despite Donald Trump's victory, made virtually no impact on the leadership or the membership of the two congressional immigration committees.

With the Republicans holding their majorities in both houses, the leadership of the Senate and House Judiciary committees and their respective immigration subcommittees will remain in GOP hands. Further, all members of both full committees and the subcommittees who sought re-election secured it or, in the case of 10 of the 15 senators, they were not subject to re-election.

The only exceptions to the 100 percent return rate were two members who opted to leave Congress to run for governor, and then lost. They were Senator David Vitter (R-La.) and the delegate from Puerto Rico, Pedro Pierluisi, (D-Puerto Rico), who carries the title of resident commissioner.

In the Senate, Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), head of the Judiciary Committee, was re-elected, while the subcommittee chair, Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) was not up for re-election this time around. Both are reliable opponents of the open-borders types.

Similarly, in the House, the chair of the full Judiciary Committee, Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), and the subcommittee chair, Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.), were both easily reelected. Gowdy, a favorite of the Republican leadership, might be assigned to another chairmanship.

As for the ranking Democratic members of these bodies in the Senate, Pat Leahy (D-Vt.), a former chair of the full committee, and Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), top Democrat on the immigration subcommittee, also won new six-year terms. Whether Schumer will continue to be a member of the immigration subcommittee given his expected elevation to be the party's leader in the Senate, remains a question.

If Schumer ceases to be the ranking Democrat on the subcommittee, that role might go to Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) or Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) or Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.). All three generally follow the party line on immigration matters, but Feinstein is adamantly opposed to the EB-5 (immigrant investor) program and Durbin is known to have some reservations about H-1B.

On the House side, the Judiciary Committee's ranking member, John Conyers (D-Mich.), won another term, as did the immigration subcommittee's Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.).

The departure of Pierluisi, incidentally, reduces the role that Puerto Ricans play on the House subcommittee, but does not eliminate it. The current 10-member panel has three people of Puerto Rican ancestry on it, Raul Labrador (R-Idaho), Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.), and Pierluisi, presumably a coincidence. There is an irony here, as virtually no legal immigrants settle in Puerto Rico, while its inhabitants, who are U.S. citizens, tend to emigrate to the Mainland.