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On paper, the immigration issue belongs to the Virginia Republican. He’s chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, which has jurisdiction of the issue, and is a former immigration lawyer, to boot.
But there are reasons to think Goodlatte may not be as pivotal an immigration player as some of the other names on this list.
His passion isn’t immigration; it’s technology and Internet issues. Also, he rose to power by strictly following the party line, and GOP leadership is sure to have an interest in managing such a politically sensitive issue as legislation works its way through the House.
So far, he’s been extremely cautious and has openly conceded that what he does will be determined by what the rest of the GOP Conference wants. There is no evidence that the secretive working group in the House has briefed Goodlatte on its progress, although its deliberations are shrouded in mystery.Rep. Raúl R. Labrador, Idaho
Immigration is Labrador’s chance to show bipartisan bona fides. The Idaho Republican has principally been known as a hard-line, tea party conservative. He’s of Puerto Rican heritage and is a Mormon by faith, details that only add to his unique profile.
Labrador has sternly criticized the bipartisan Senate proposal, but he is a surprising new addition to the secretive House working group on the subject. One looming question is how any proposal can square with Labrador’s public pronouncements and still garner the support of the Democrats who are participating in the talks.
If Labrador does endorse a bipartisan, comprehensive proposal from the working group, it could go a long way toward giving cover to some of the most conservative House members to support it, too. He is certainly an important voice to watch.Rep. Steve King, Iowa
Among the most outspoken and rhetorically charged opponents of a comprehensive immigration policy rewrite, King is emblematic of the struggles Republican leaders will have in selling an immigration bill to their own party. Though King lost his spot as vice chairman of the Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security this year — a sign overhaul advocates took as leadership greasing the wheels for a deal — he is still likely to use his perch on the panel to push back against the legislative efforts. King has introduced bills to make English the official language of the United States and to end birthright citizenship, and he vociferously opposes a pathway to citizenship, which he sees as amnesty. He has spoken out against “open border Republicans,” and his desire to attack his own party may only increase if he ends up running in a Senate primary — especially if his opponent is Rep. Tom Latham, one of Speaker John A. Boehner’s closest friends.Rep. Michael McCaul, Texas