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House Races to Watch for Immigration Policy

I mentioned earlier a few of the immigration hawks who are likely to win House seats today, but it’s worth running through some of the other congressional races that could impact how immigration policy plays out in the next two years. (See here for a summary of some of the key Senate races that could impact immigration.) Most of the changes will be broad, based on the potential for Republicans taking control of the House and implementing their own ideas on immigration, but here are the areas to watch for major switches.

House Speaker: If the House flips to a GOP majority, current Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) will have to turn over her title to current Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio). Handing the reins to Boehner could be a huge blow to the odds of comprehensive immigration reform, or any bill that would allow some of the undocumented immigrants in the country to earn legal status. Boehner expressed doubt earlier this year that Democrats could pass immigration reform — he was right — and said he favors a border security-first approach. The GOP’s Pledge to America, which was unveiled in September, has few details on immigration-related issues, but mostly focused on enforcement and border issues rather than changes to the legal immigration system.

**Immigration subcommittee: **The House immigration subcommittee would be chaired by Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) instead of Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) if Republicans took control of the House. On immigration, it would be hard for any two House members’ positions to be more different: King favors a number of anti-illegal immigration crackdowns and interrogation of immigration enforcement officials, while Lofgren focused her efforts on reform to make legal immigration more efficient. If King heads the subcommittee, he has promised to try to pass a birthright citizenship repeal bill, a bill punishing employers of illegal immigrants, a crackdown on so-called “sanctuary cities” and legislation that would assert states have the right to create immigration laws like Arizona’s SB 1070.

Other immigration-related races: More broadly, the election could see a number of advocates of comprehensive immigration reform replaced by immigration hardliner opponents. In Colorado, Rep. John Salazar (D) is trailing Republican Scott Tipton in the polls. Salazar supports enhanced border security measures as part of a comprehensive immigration reform bill, but voted against building a fence along the U.S.-Mexico border. Tipton opposes “amnesty,” the general Republican term for paths to legalization for illegal immigrants already in the country.

Four of Arizona’s five incumbent Democratic representatives could lose their seats to Republicans, which would make a splash because of the state’s importance on immigration and border issue. Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.), who easily won previous elections in his heavily Democratic district, faces strong competition from Republican Ruth McClung. Grijalva is a strong supporter of immigration reform and Latino and immigrant rights. He drew fire for his staunch opposition to SB 1070 after he called for a boycott on his state — which he has since said was a misstep.

Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) is facing Republican Jesse Kellly, who has been criticized for accepting an endorsement from Americans for Legal Immigration PAC, or ALIPAC. Giffords is a supporter of border enforcement before other immigration reform, but Kelly is much further to the right: He says the government should construct a double-layer border fence, hire more Border Patrol agents and deploy 10,000 National Guard troops.

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