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Allen and Hodgman | Democrats take over House – what does it mean for immigration?
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Democrats take over House – what does it mean for immigration?

The U.S. midterm elections resulted in a “blue wave” of votes for Democratic Party candidates in the U.S. House of Representatives. Close to 40 seats changed hands from Republican to Democrat. This means the Democratic party will have a large majority in the House of Representatives when the 116th Congress takes over on January 3, 2019. The Republican Party will still have a slim majority in the U.S. Senate.

For a bill to become law in the United States, the bill must be passed by both the House and the Senate, and signed by the President. In the previous Congress, the Republican Party could pass laws without the support of the Democrats, since the Republicans controlled both houses of Congress and also the presidency. As a result of the midterm elections, the Republicans will have to negotiate with the Democrats to pass any law. This gives the Democratic Party more leverage. In addition, the Democratic party will be able to conduct investigations through the House committees, which will now be controlled by the Democrats.

What does this mean for immigration?

First and foremost, it means an end of the use of the “Hastert Rule,” that has prevented DACA legislation and other important immigration reforms from coming to a vote in Congress, even though majorities in both houses support the legislation. Immigration advocates should press all members of Congress to make DACA legislation the number one priority of the new Congress.

Second, the Democratic majority in the House provides a fail safe mechanism to prevent enactment of the most extreme anti-immigrant legislation proposed by the Trump administration, such as drastic reductions in the level of legal immigration or elimination of most family based immigration.

Third, Democratic control of House committees will enable the Democratic party to shine a spotlight on the worst abuses of the Trump administration, such as the policy of separating parents from children at the southern border.

Over the next two years, immigration advocates must build on the momentum of the 2018 midterms to elect pro-immigration majorities in both houses of Congress in 2020, and to elect a pro-immigration President.