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Rep. McCaul: Immigration Reform Possible Next Session

U.S. Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Austin, said on Thursday that passing comprehensive immigration reform is possible in the next session of Congress, but he said it would be difficult. He also is encouraged by recent developments in Mexico.

Congressman Michael McCaul at the Texas Capitol on Feb. 23, 2011.

A key Republican in Texas’ congressional delegation said Thursday that passing comprehensive immigration reform is possible next session, but conceded it would still be a contentious endeavor.

U.S. Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Austin, also said that after initially fearing that Mexico could revert to its former ways of corruption following its July 1 election, the country’s president-elect, Enrique Peña Nieto, has made encouraging remarks regarding the future of the country.

McCaul, the chairman of the House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Oversight, Investigations and Management, spoke at the University of Texas at Austin’s Global Security Summit and told reporters that after the GOP’s less-than-stellar performance Tuesday, his party was going to have to move forward and work with President Obama’s administration for the good of the country. Hispanics turned out in large numbers Tuesday, helping propel Obama to a second term. Analysts say that the Republican Party’s tough stance on immigration helped turn the tide in Obama’s favor.

“I think we can have immigration reform,” McCaul said. “Some policies we’ve advocated with, for instance, is doing away with the lottery and increasing the cap on high-skilled worker visas.”

The current system, he added, allows bright students to study in the U.S. only to have to return to their home countries after they graduate because the cap on visas is too low.

“They go back to our competitor, which makes absolutely no sense from an immigration standpoint or a national security standpoint,” he said. “We want those people to stay here in the United States, so I think we can reform that and not have a random lottery system.”

Asked about the millions in the country without student or high-skilled worker visas, McCaul said they would probably cause a more volatile conversation.

“Honestly, that’s going to be a very contentious issue to deal with. That’s most likely going to come up in the next Congress, and we’re going to have to figure out how best to deal with that,” he said.

On Mexico, McCaul has been very outspoken with concerns that the nation's government would return to its former iron-fisted and corrupt methods of ruling if the Institutional Revolutionary Party returned to power. Its candidate, Peña Nieto, the former governor of the state of Mexico, won the election handily, but McCaul said he is more optimistic now about the country’s direction. Part of that optimism stems from Peña Nieto’s invitation to a former Colombian general who worked closely with the United States to rid the South American country of drug violence in the 1990s.

“We’ve seen his appointment of General Naranjo, the general who did Plan Colombia [with the United States] to be his chief adviser with respect to the drug cartels,” he said. “In addition he’s talked about using special intelligence and special forces to deal with the threat. He’s even talked about reforming [the nationalized oil giant] PEMEX. These are all very positive indicators for a new administration in Mexico.”

McCaul said he will be part of a delegation that will be in Mexico for Peña Nieto's inauguration “not only to celebrate the inauguration, but to meet with him to go over these concerns but also applaud him for what I see are steps in the right direction.”

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