WASHINGTON -- Iowa Republican and anti-illegal immigration hardliner Steve King was passed over for the leading position on the House immigration subcommittee on Friday.
Having served as ranking member on the subcommittee since 2007, King was expected to be given the chairmanship this year. Instead, Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) selected Rep. Elton Gallegly (R-Calif.), another immigration hawk with a slightly lower media profile.
Taking up the mantle of former Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-Colo.), King has advocated for a variety of anti-illegal immigration proposals during his time in Congress, including building an electric border fence. "It would simply be a discouragement for them to be fooling around with it," said King of the proposed fence. "We do that with livestock all the time."
King's most recent effort has been to alter the definition of citizenship so as to prevent children born to undocumented immigrants in the United States from being recognized as U.S. citizens under the 14th Amendment. On Thursday, King introduced legislation to eliminate birthright citizenship for the children he refers to as "anchor babies."
King's bill would require that children born in the U.S. have at least one parent who is already a U.S. citizen, a criteria which most legal experts say would be unconstitutional.
King told HuffPost he plans to push this year for the New IDEA Act, which would require that the IRS check the legal status on employees of businesses during audits. The bill would use E-Verify, a program used by the federal government, contractors and businesses in some states to check Social Security numbers provided by workers.
Somos Republicans, an Arizona-based Latino group, urged House Republican leaders in November to keep King out of the immigration chairman position. In a letter to Speaker John Boehner and Majority Leader Eric Cantor, the group argued allowing King and Smith to lead on immigration would alienate Latino voters.
"Representatives Smith and King have engaged in an ill-advised platform and rhetoric that has been perceived as insensitive with their inflammatory 'immigration statements,' and this has caused an exodus of Hispanic voters to the Democratic party," the letter read.
Still, the decision to pass over King may not have much impact on immigration policy, according to advocates for comprehensive immigration reform. Gallegly and King hold similar views on immigration. Both support eliminating birthright citizenship, and have accused undocumented immigrants of taking American jobs, increasing crime and driving up health care costs.
Gallegly told The Hill he plans to hold his first hearings on the oversight of Immigration and Customs Enforcement worksite enforcement, and the E-Verify employment screening program.
"Steve King was dethroned because even the House Republican leadership must realize that comparing immigrants to livestock and suggesting we keep them out with an electric fence is offensive to Latino voters," Frank Sharry, executive director of America's Voice, said in a press release. "But he's simply been demoted from king to prince, and together, with Lamar Smith and Elton Gallegly, will lead the deportation caucus in the House."
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