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House Immigration Policy Now in the Hands of GOP and Steve King

Of all the possible changes to come out of the election, the biggest potential shift in immigration policy will probably come from which party controls the House. Now that change is official: Republicans will lead the House, meaning immigration legislation will be in the hands of likely Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), who will chair the immigration subcommittee.

Republican positions on immigration — and particularly the positions of hardliners like King — will be a major change from how current Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and other leading Democrats handled the issue. House Republicans have said they will focus on border security and immigration enforcement over potential reform to the legal immigration system.

King tends to be on the extreme end of anti-illegal immigration rhetoric: He favors changes to birthright citizenship to keep U.S.-born children of illegal immigrants from receiving citizenship and argues more states should pass immigration crackdowns like Arizona’s SB 1070. King has pushed for more border enforcement and an electrified fence along the border to keep illegal immigrants out. “We do that with livestock all the time,” he said.

As head of the immigration subcommittee, King wants to call various leading Obama administration officials to hearings to ask them about immigration enforcement and, presumably, imply the administration does not want to deport people.

Of course, King won’t have ultimate power over the House Republicans’ priorities on immigration. Boehner will set a good deal of the agenda, and is likely to follow some of the plans hinted at in the Pledge to America, a vague but enforcement-heavy document released in September.

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