Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy of California has quickly emerged as the favorite to replace Eric Cantor as majority leader, which raises the question: How would McCarthy handle immigration reform if he were elected as the new House majority leader?
McCarthy, whose Bakersfield-area district is 35 percent Latino, has said he does not support a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. Instead, he favors a path to legal status. And like most House Republicans, he supports a piecemeal approach to immigration reform rather than take up the Senate-approved immigration reform bill.
Over the past year, McCarthy has become a major target of pro-immigration reform advocates who see him as someone who could possibly influence other Republicans to support immigration reform. Rallies, marches, sit-ins and even a large caravan have been held in his district to pressure him to push immigration reform forward in the House.
Last November, after a group of 13 women staged a sit-in at his office in Bakersfield, McCarthy told the women he is “serious about solving the problem” and vowed to continue pushing for immigration reform in the House. A few months later, he said in an interview with Eyewitness News that he favors allowing undocumented immigrants to gain a legal status that will permit them to work and pay taxes.
Then, shortly after Republicans released their immigration reform principles in January, McCarthy said that he pushes for immigration reform “every single day” as majority whip.
“Sometimes it’s tough to move it,” he said referring to immigration reform. “But the most important thing is to get it done right.”
McCarthy has also received a lot of pressure from farm workers to push for immigration reform. Besides being heavily Latino, McCarthy’s district is also one of the nation’s top agriculture districts, and many of the farm workers who harvest crops there are undocumented.
“The reality is that 70 percent, if not 80 percent, of farm workers in the United States today and within his district do not have documents,” United Farm Workers President Arturo Rodriguez told VOXXI in April. “As a result, this should be the number one priority for him, and it makes no sense to us at all that he has not given us a vote on this issue in the House of Representatives.”
McCarthy now appears to be the clear frontrunner to replace Cantor, who announced this week he will be stepping down as majority leader on July 31. Republicans will vote on June 19 to elect a new Republican to replace Cantor.
Immigration reform advocates said this week that Cantor “was no friend of immigration reform” during his time as House majority leader, because he didn’t do enough to push for a House vote on the issue. Now, advocates say they’re hoping that McCarthy will be more aggressive than Cantor in moving immigration reform forward if he’s elected as the new House majority leader.
“As the person responsible for scheduling House votes, when it comes to immigration reform McCarthy will either be a hero or a zero,” said Frank Sharry, executive director of America’s Voice.
“He can save the GOP from itself by quickly scheduling a vote on historic legislation that the majority of the House, the country and even his district supports,” Sharry continued, “or he can squander the opportunity, let the Steve King caucus run the show and do for the national party what Pete Wilson did for the California Republican Party.”