Immigration Policymakers Come and Go: A Score Card

By David North on December 6, 2017

There are quite a few current or potential immigration policymakers moving into or out of key positions, or rumored to be doing so. This is a brief summary of the policymakers and their career immigration-reduction grades, as ranked by NumbersUSA.

One sure change has been announced by the Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.); he is not running for re-election. His career grade is A, and he has usually come down on the right side of immigration policy issues.

In January of 2019 he will be replaced by another Republican if the GOP holds the House. In that case, and if the next senior GOP member, Steve Chabot (R-Ohio), is re-elected, he may well be given the gavel (though that's not guaranteed since chairmanships are not based solely on seniority). Chabot has a career grade of B and recently pushed a bill that would expand the number of H-2B workers (the non-ag, non-skilled ones).

The ranking Democrat on that committee was John Conyers (D-Mich.), the most senior member of the House. Conyers stepped down from that position late last month, due to sexual harassment charges from the past, and then resigned from Congress altogether yesterday. NumbersUSA gives him a solid F-; that rating has nothing to do with the charges against him.

Conyers's retirement would seem to make Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) the new ranking member and the prospective chairman should the Democrats win the House. Nadler also gets an F- from NumbersUSA. Though the two have nearly identical policies on immigration matters, in some ways they are as different as night and day; although you could not tell it from their voting records, Nadler's district includes Wall Street, and Conyers' some of the most blighted areas of Detroit.

Even though he has seniority, Nadler may be challenged for the ranking member spot by Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), who is currently the top Democrat on Judiciary's immigration subcommittee. She also has a Numbers USA career grade of F-.

Although he no longer holds a leadership post specifically on immigration, the announcement that Lamar Smith (R-Texas) will not seek reelection is a loss for the cause of reform. Smith has been chairman of the full Judiciary Committee and of the immigration subcommittee and is one of the most knowledgeable members of the House on immigration, having led the effort in the mid-1990s to enact the Barbara Jordan Commission recommendations into law. He has a career grade of A+ from Numbers USA.

Meanwhile, rumors swirl that U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson may be on his way out of office, perhaps to be succeeded by former Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-Kan.) who is now the director of Central Intelligence; Pompeo in turn might be replaced by Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.). Cotton's departure from the Senate would be the most significant of all these moves in terms of immigration policy and would be close to a disaster for those seeking to lower the current levels of immigration.

Tillerson appears not to have played much of a role in immigration policy, except in a rarely discussed way. He has agreed to a serious reduction in the size of the State Department, which would seem mean reducing spending on the visa-issuance process, something I find troubling. Cabinet members, incidentally, don't get NumbersUSA ratings.

Pompeo, with a career rating of A, might be more assertive at State on migration matters than Tillerson has been, but whoever is appointed to Cotton's seat could not, as a brand-new member, possibly fill his shoes in the immigration debate. (That newcomer would presumably be a Republican, as the state has a GOP governor.)

Cotton knows the immigration issues in detail, and is dedicated to real reform; it would be terrible if he left the Senate. His grade for the current Congress is A; for his career (he also spent one term in the House) it is A-. At 40, he is the youngest member of the Senate.

Topics: Politics