Head of immigration House subcommittee will offer a less controversial California flavor

Despite earlier reports that hardline immigration hawk Rep. Steve King of Iowa was set to become the chairman of the House Subcommittee on Immigration, California Congressman Elton Gallegly (R- Simi Valley) has been appointed. 

The move, as the Contra Costa Times reports, is drawing different reactions from both sides of the political spectrum. While Republicans are praising Gallegly for his enforcement approach on illegal immigration, the Times reports that Democratic supporters are interpreting the switch as the Republican Party’s rejecting Congressman King’s rhetoric surrounding the matter. 

Back when he was appointed as the ranking member of the House immigration subcommittee, King promised to uphold key Republican policy stances such as securing the border and protecting jobs from illegal immigrants.  However, the Congressman seems to have become a firebrand by advocating issues such as reforming the 14th amendment’s birthright citizenship clause, and with other comments that could be interpreted as anti-immigrant by those on the left.

For instance, King earlier this year suggested that there were certain “indicators” by which an illegal immigrant can be identified by law enforcement. Mediaite reports that King said the following when chiming in on immigration legislation in the past:

     “It’s just a common sense thing. Law enforcement needs to use common sense indicators. These common sense indicators are all kinds of things, from what kind of clothes people wear – my suit in my case – what kind of shoes people wear, what kind of accident [sic] they have, um, the type of grooming they might have, there are-there are all kinds of indicators there and sometimes it’s just a sixth sense and they can’t put their finger on it.”

The media website has also noted that King ran into some trouble with some Tea Party groups when he suggested that President Obama “has a default mechanism in him that breaks down on the side of race, on the side that favors the black person.”

With the appointment of Gallegly, Republicans will still get hawkish immigration enforcement proposals such as strengthening the E-Verify system and protecting the border. After all, the Congressman has been active on the immigration front for much of his career as a public servant.   Gallegly also has the backing to demonstrate that he is serious about protecting the border. Besides being named one of the top ten immigration hawks in 2006, Congressman Gallegy is also a part of the Border Patrol Hall of Fame. 

One factor to watch in shaping Gallegly’s proposals is that more than a quarter of his district is Hispanic. Approximately 15 percent are registered voters. The fact that the Congressman is accountable to constituents especially vigilant of how Republicans carry out immigration policy will likely affect the manner in which Gallegy seeks a solution. This is not to say that all Hispanics are pro-amnesty or support Democratic reform efforts; rather, it is an observation recognizing the reality of those who are sensitive to rhetoric coming from the Republican party on the issue. 

With Gallegly as the new subcommittee head, he is in a better position than Congressman King would have been because he does not have a history of heated rhetoric behind him. Because of that one factor, perhaps he will be in a better position to facilitate a reasoned discussion on the matter with both Democrats and Republicans on the subcommittee.

The ability to maneuver the waters of immigration reform seems to be what Gallegly ultimately has going for him if he continues to play his cards right. In 1995, Gallegly chaired a Congressional Task Force on Immigration. The non-legislative body made more than 80 recommendations on immigration policy, most of which became law the following year.