South Carolina Representative Trey Gowdy (R), a hawk on illegal immigration, has been chosen to serve as chairman of the House's immigration subcommittee.
Gowdy, who currently serves on the immigration subcommittee, has stressed the need for border security and called for the enforcement of current immigration laws. He has also been vocally critical of the Obama administration's handling of Operation Fast and Furious, the botched gun-walking program. The selection of Gowdy comes as Congress is expected to take up sweeping immigration reforms next year that could provide relief to the 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the U.S.
Representative Bob Goodlatte (R-Virginia) announced the Judiciary Subcommitee chairmen for the next Congress on Tuesday afternoon.
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"As Chairman of the Immigration and Border Security Subcommittee, Rep. Gowdy will play a leading role on immigration reform which is a top priority of the House Judiciary Committee in the new Congress," Chairman-elect Bob Goodlatte said in a statement to ABC/Univision News. "I think Rep. Gowdy will do an excellent job in this new leadership position and I look forward to working with him in the 113th Congress."
The committee considers a host of immigration issues, from border security and immigration policy to international agreements and treaties.
Executive Director of America's Voice Education Fund Frank Sharry, a pro-immigration reform group, called Gowdy's positions a potential impediment to passing a pathway to citizenship for the nation's undocumented immigrants.
"Trey Gowdy is unlikely to be the kind of loudmouth wing nut that Steve King would have been, but his policy positions are eerily similar," Sharry said in a statement. " He supports unconstitutional power grabs by states that pass Arizona-style anti-immigrant laws and opposes the President's policy to offer relief to young people who are American in all but paperwork. If the Republican Party wants to get right on immigration reform that puts 11 million immigrants on the road to citizenship, I suspect they'll have to go around him or over him."
Gowdy has criticized the decision to allow some young people to apply for deportation relief through deferred action, and co-sponsored a bill that would have prevented the Department of Justice from suing states that pass tough immigration laws, such as Arizona.
Numbers USA, a group that wants to lower immigration levels, awarded Gowdy an A- grade, in part for working to reduce the diversity visa lottery and what they call "amnesty entitlements."
According to the group, "Amnesties go farther than most incentives for illegal immigration because they make it impossible for illegal aliens to be forced to go back home. Amnesties reward the illegal alien with the pathway to U.S. citizenship. Millions of illegal aliens have been made part of the permanent, legal population of America since 1986."
Gowdy previously served as a district attorney in South Carolina and he beat out Democrat Deb Morrow in the 2012 election. He was reportedly considered for retiring Senator Jim DeMint's seat, a spot that eventually went to Representative Tim Scott.