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Anti-Immigrant Rhetoric Loses Big In Midterm Elections

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December 2006
Anti-Immigrant Rhetoric Loses Big In Midterm Elections

Anti-immigrant platforms became the hot-button topic during many of the races for open Congressional seats in the November midterm elections. Despite being made out to be the pro-immigrant, pro-amnesty party, the Democratic Party won control of both Houses of Congress. In January, the 100th Congress will be sworn in and new leaders will be chosen to run committees which focus on immigration legislation. Immigration was set to be the Republicans secret political weapon this year, but a funny thing happened on the way to the election. While most Republicans promoted tough immigration positions that emphasized strong enforcement and an opposition to any kind of relief for undocumented immigrants, voters generally rejected this hard-line approach and supported candidates more likely to support

comprehensive immigration reform. The most telling evidence of this is the fact that Tom Tancredo's anti-immigrant Immigration Reform Caucus had

a horrible showing. As many as 20 of its members will be gone in the next Congress. The rejection of the anti-immigrant message was also seen in the overwhelming defeat of John Hostettler (R-IN), the chairman of the House Immigration Subcommittee. He made immigration his major issue and

touted his record as rejecting any form of relief for the undocumented immigrant. In Arizona, Randy Graf lost by a large margin to Gabrielle Giffords. Graf, a Minuteman, not surprisingly took a number of extremely tough immigration positions including opposing citizenship for children born in

the US to non-citizens, and opposition to earned legalization for undocumented immigrants. The 110th House of Representatives is likely to have a much different attitude on immigration issues than the previous

House. For the last twelve years, the House Judiciary Committee and its Immigration Subcommittee have been chaired by a number of virulently anti-immigration Congressmen. House Judiciary Committee Chairman Sensensbrenner's name is synonymous with being anti-immigration. The election will have a less profound effect on the US Senate. The US Senate's Republican members have generally been moderate on immigration issues as was evidenced by its passage of the bipartisan immigration reform bill last may. Congresswoman Sheila Jackson-Lee (D-TX) is likely to take over the Immigration Subcommittee and John Conyers (R-MI) is should be the next chair of the Judiciary Committee. Both are strongly pro-immigrant and have long track records on this issue. On the Senate side, it is less clear who will

take over the relevant immigration committees, though the odds are quite good that the new chair will be strongly proimmigration. Nancy Pelosi will likely take on the position of Speaker of the House and Harry Reid will assume the position of Senate Majority Leader. Each has a strong record in support of comprehensive immigration reform. Expect comprehensive immigration reform legislation to be re-introduced early in the next Congress. The legislation could move quickly since Democrats will be able to get the

bills easily passed in friendlier subcommittees and enough pro-immigration Republicans should sign on to easily pass the bills. President Bush has strongly pushed for a comprehensive immigration bill and Democratic leaders will likely be interested in passing something quickly that will not be vetoed

by the President. And the President is likely to see immigration reform as one of the few areas where he can enjoy success legislatively. It seems ironic that it will take a Democratic Congress to give Bush this victory.


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