Leading up to Election Day, immigration was a hot talking point on campaign ads. In particular, immigration became a top issue for many Republicans’ campaign strategies, particularly those focusing on enforcement and border security, with some using fear-based language tying immigrants to drug, crime, and national security. In contrast, most Democratic election campaigns focused on access to abortion and preservation of democracy. Ultimately, the Democrats expanded their majority in the Senate (51-49) — even though Senator Sinema changed her affiliation from Democrat to Independent, she will continue to caucus with Democrats — adding one seat, and gaining control of committees, while Republicans took narrow control of the House of Representatives.
Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), the current House Minority Leader and presumptive Speaker has promised to investigate DHS Secretary Mayorkas, and many far-right members of Congress who have called for Mayorkas’ resignation or impeachment. Secretary Mayorkas has vowed to remain, and an impeachment most likely would not result in his removal with the Democratic-controlled Senate.
With divided government, bipartisan legislation in the next two years is unlikely. The “Commitment to America,” supported by Minority Leader McCarthy, focuses on national security and border enforcement before any other actions. McCarthy has previously made his stance clear against legislation that trades a path to citizenship for recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program with increased border security, a bipartisan deal that had been proposed in the Senate. Given that the Republican majority in the House is so small (222-213), in order to have a coalition to make him Speaker, he will need to make promises to extremists, which likely will not allow him to pass bipartisan legislation on the issue.
The Democratic control of the U.S. Senate, however, will allow President Biden to continue confirming federal judges and cabinet members without significant opposition. By expanding from 50 to 51 Senators in their caucus, Democrats will now have control of all Senate committees, which will aid in fast-tracking judicial confirmation. The federal judiciary has played an increasing role in immigration policy in recent years, as they have authority to issue national injunctions overriding presidential policies as they have done in the Obama, Trump, and Biden Administrations.