Meet Elton Gallegly, The Chair Of The Immigration Committee

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We told you last week that Rep. Steve King (R-IA) was passed over as chair of the House immigration subcommittee. King is prone to outrageous statements about immigration and a range of other subjects, and it seemed like a signal that the new Republican leadership wanted to take a more moderate tack — at least on immigration.

But the person assigned to the subcommittee, Rep. Elton Gallegly (R-CA), is just about as far-right as King — he’s just quieter about it.

Gallegly has been trying to strip birthright citizenship from the children of illegal immigrants since 1991, when he introduced his first bill to do so. His proposals to change the 14th Amendment have failed repeatedly for 20 years. But now, as changing the birthright citizenship laws becomes increasingly mainstream, it looks as if Gallegly may finally have a chance.

Gallegly — whose southern California district, like King’s, is about 15% Hispanic — supports amending the Constitution itself to change who counts as a citizen.In June 2009, Gallegly introduced a bill that would define a natural citizen under the Immigration Act as someone whose mother, specifically, is a citizen or legal resident. That measure would go into effect after the Constitution was amended. The bill never got past committee.

He differs, then, from the new and growing set of anti-citizenship folks who are trying instead to provoke a court battle that ends in the Supreme Court redefining the amendment. King’s new birthright citizenship bill, which he introduced last week, would change the way Congress interprets the 14th Amendment via the Immigration and Nationality Act — but does not mention amending the Constitution itself.

Gallegly introduced or co-sponsored a slew of strict immigration bills last Congress, including one that would withhold federal highway funds from states that issue driver’s licenses or other IDs to illegal immigrants and another that would require proof of citizenship for families applying for the State Children’s Health Insurance Program. Both died in committee.

Any similar measures he wants to consider in his new committee may have to wait, as Judiciary Committee Chair Lamar Smith has ordered the first two hearings to be about less controversial topics: requiring employers nationwide to use e-Verify and looking into the Obama administration’s enforcement of worksite regulations.

Smith, though, supports restricting birthright citizenship. So expect the issue to come up, big-time, in the next two years — even without the incendiary King at the helm of the subcomittee.

Gallegly’s office did not return interview requests.

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