On paper, McCarthy is one member of the House leadership team who has a vested interest in moving forward with immigration reform. His district, based in Bakersfield, Calif., is 35 percent Latino and heavily dependent on migrant labor for its agricultural industry, which brought in $7.5 billion to Kern County in 2014. A 2012 UC Berkeley-Field Poll found that 47 percent of California Republicans favor a path to citizenship.
But his record is another matter. Throughout his seven years in House leadership McCarthy has voted against the DREAM Act—which would have allowed those who grew up in the U.S. after being brought illegally as children to stay— and voted to defund President Obama’s executive orders that ended deportation of so-called DREAMers and other categories of people living here illegally. McCarthy also voted to end sanctuary cities. As a result, McCarthy’s offices, both in his district and the Capitol, have been the site of several protests for immigration reform.
“He should know better than almost anybody what danger the party faces by being anti-immigrant. But is he willing to stand up to Steve King and that wing of the Republican conference?” said Lynn Tramonte, deputy director of the immigration advocacy group America’s Voice, referring to the Iowa Republican congressman who is one of his party’s most strident opponents of illegal immigration. “I don’t know, I haven’t seen it.”