Remember Brian Bilbray? The hardline anti-immigrant congressman-turned-FAIR-lobbyist-turned-congressman-turned-forced-retiree? Well, Bilbray—before his most recent electoral defeat—was the head of a group of anti-immigrant members of the House of Representatives called the “Immigration Reform Caucus” [IRC]. To avoid confusion about what real reform looks like, we prefer to call it the Bully Brigade. Bilbray had inherited the caucus from Tom Tancredo—now, without either of them in the House anymore, it looks like the caucus has been quietly sent into (at least temporary) retirement as well.
But many representatives who were on the Bully Brigade are still in Congress—and they’ve managed to work their way into important places for the future of real immigration reform. Namely, the House Judiciary Committee.
There are 77 current members of Congress who were members of the IRC. All are Republicans. This represents 33% of the Republican caucus (which is scary enough on its own). But on the Judiciary Committee, former Bully Brigaders represent 12 of 23 of all Republicans on the committee—a majority of 52%. They’re overrepresented on the committee. It’s almost like someone was selecting for them.
But as the Republican Party as a whole scrambles to catch up to demographic change and the American people's views on immigration, even these ex-IRCers aren’t immune. For one thing, with Bilbray kicked out by Latino voters, no one appears to be eager to get the band back together again. Individual members are even rushing to burnish their pro-reform cred. The new vice chair of the Immigration Subcommittee, Rep. Ted Poe (R-Texas), was once best known for comparing immigrants to cockroaches—but now that political observers are warning that Texas might turn purple or even blue, as Latinos sour on the GOP, he’s eager to reform the system. And Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Colo.), last seen winning re-election in a squeaker after calling the DREAM Act a “nightmare,” has left the Judiciary Committee and has just introduced a bill that would let DREAMers enlist in the military once they received deferred action.
So maybe the overrepresentation of the Bully Brigade on the Judiciary Committee means nothing, and Tuesday’s hearing will be full of former hardline antis falling all over each other to proclaim how much they love immigration reform. Or maybe they’ve just camouflaged themselves for the new politics of immigration, without changing their hearts. Either way, the ex-Bully Brigaders on Judiciary should know we’ll have our eye on them Tuesday:
Rep. Spencer Bachus (AL-6)
Rep. Steve Chabot (OH-1)
Rep. Jason Chaffetz (UT-1)
Rep. Howard Coble (NC-6)
Rep. Blake Farenthold (TX-27)
Rep. Randy Forbes (VA-4)
Rep. Trent Franks (AZ-8)
Rep. Louie “Terror Babies” Gohmert (TX-1)
Rep. Steve King (IA-4)
Rep. Tom Marino (PA-10)
Rep. Ted Poe (TX-2)
Rep. Lamar Smith (TX-21)
This post originally appeared on the America's Voice blog.