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February 13, 2013

Rep. Ted Poe (R-TX) Named Head of House Immigration Reform Caucus

Representative Ted Poe (R-TX) announced on February 7, 2013, that he will chair the House Immigration Reform Caucus (IRC). The immigration restrictionist replaces outgoing chairman Brian Bilbray, who lost his seat in California in November 2012. Founded in 1999 by former Colorado Rep. Tom Tancredo, IRC is the main block of immigration restrictionists in the House.  It is very closely aligned with the anti-immigrant movement.

Poe’s views closely align with the anti-immigrant movement. The Beltway-based anti-immigrant group NumbersUSA give Poe an “A” grade for his voting record on immigration, which indicates that his record is in line with their ideology. In 2010, Poe signed onto an amicus brief in support of Arizona’s SB1070 law, drafted by the Immigration Reform Law Institute (IRLI), the legal arm of the DC-based anti-immigrant group Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR).  Poe has attended FAIR’s annual “Hold Their Feet to the Fire” radio event in Washington, D.C. The event brings radio hosts to Washington to broadcast live and interview anti-immigrant activists and restrictionist politicians. On November 19, 2009, Poe participated in a forum with other members of the House Judiciary Committee entitled “American Jobs in Peril: The Impact of Uncontrolled Immigration.” Speakers included Roy Beck, president of NumbersUSA, and Jerry Kammer and Steven Camarota of the anti-immigrant think-tank Center for Immigration Studies (CIS).

The February 7, 2013 press release also announced the members of the IRC Executive Committee: Diane Black (R-TN), Bill Flores (R-TX), Phil Gingrey (R-GA) and Lamar Smith (R-TX). All four Executive Committee members have “A” grades from NumbersUSA.  Lamar Smith and Phil Gingrey have close ties to the anti-immigrant movement. During his tenure as chair of the House Judiciary Committee, Smith invited many prominent members of the anti-immigrant movement to testify on immigration issues. Gingrey and Smith are also regulars at FAIR’s “Hold Their Feet to the Fire” event. Both men received donations from the U.S. Immigration Reform PAC in the past. Mary Lou Tanton, the wife of racist John Tanton, the founder of the modern-day anti-immigrant movement, runs the PAC.

The Poe press release stated that IRC currently has 58 members, although 77 people who were previously IRC members won re-election in 2012. It is unclear why so many IRC members decided to leave the Caucus, but some may want to distance themselves from the anti-immigrant movement now that immigration reform has become more acceptable to both political parties. IRC’s previous two chairs, Bilbray and Tom Tancredo, a former representative from Colorado, both lost elections, perhaps in part due to their restrictionist views on immigration. It remains to be seen how Poe’s new position will impact voters in his district.

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