A group of centrist Republicans in the U.S. House is trying to force a vote on an immigration bill to protect so-called “Dreamers” from deportation, much to the displeasure of conservatives and House GOP leadership.
Using a procedural tactic know as a discharge petition, Rep. Carlos Curbelo, R-Fla., joined 17 other Republicans and one Democrat to sign onto a plan that could give amnesty to those brought here illegally as children under President Barack Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program.
If all 193 Democrats join 25 Republicans, they would reach the 218 signatures required to force a floor vote. Curbelo needs just seven more Republicans to sign the discharge petition to have 25 Republican signatures.
“The discharge petition is basically a Trojan horse to get the Dream Act passed,” Rep. Dave Brat, R-Va., told The Daily Signal in a phone interview.
“Twenty-five Republicans are working to leapfrog the entire Republican conference and leap over leadership, and to get 200 Democrats along with 25 Republicans to pass a Democrat Dream Act, which is in total opposition to the majority will of our conference, which is to pass the Goodlatte bill,” Brat added.
The Goodlatte bill would require employers to use E-Verify, now a voluntary system, to check the immigration status of workers and would authorize a wall at the U.S.-Mexico border and other efforts designed to increase border security.
Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said in a statement provided to The Daily Signal that the efforts to force House votes on various immigration bills would not bring about reform.
“This discharge petition would lead to an unbalanced approach and is likely to ignore the tough issues that need to be addressed to prevent parents from bringing their children to the United States illegally in the future,” Goodlatte said.
If a bill did pass the House, it is not clear if the Senate would take it up or if President Donald Trump would sign it.
“We’ve been clear what our position is,” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Wednesday, speaking of the discharge petition. “We laid out several months ago what we wanted to see happen. We’d still like to see that happen, and we’d love to see a piece of legislation that includes all four of the principles and the pillars that the president outlined.”
The Senate has already voted on and failed to pass four different immigration bills, one of which was a bill sponsored by seven senators, including Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, chairman of the Judiciary Committee, and backed by the White House. It would have allocated $25 billion for border security measures, such as radar, physical and virtual fencing, and other technologies, including a border wall.
Discharge petitions can only be considered on the second and fourth Mondays of the month when the House is in session. Currently, at least July 23 and Dec. 10 would be eligible dates this year.
Under DACA, about 800,000 of this illegal population—whom some call “Dreamers”—applied for work permits and remained in the country without fear of deportation. Rep. Will Hurd, R-Texas, who has signed the discharge petition, says DACA recipients should be given amnesty.
“There are million-plus men and women who do not have certainty,” Hurd said. “These are men and women who have contributed to our economy … to our history … These are people who are Americans and they need a permanent legislative fix.”
But Brat says lawmakers are using the procedural tactic of the petition to force a vote on the Dream Act, which would give amnesty to those unlawfully brought to the U.S. as children, but said he wants to see a different compromise with a bill introduced in January by Goodlatte.
“The Goodlatte bill is the compromise bill and we worked with Democrats’ request, which was 700,000 DACA recipients, get the kids out of the shadows, and we said, ‘Yup, let’s do that,’ and then add the other Goodlatte provisions on E-Verify, chain migration, and solving the border crisis and the Democrats said no, and then Trump put it up to 2 million … and the Democrats said no,” Brat said.
During a press conference Thursday, House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., said he didn’t support the petition effort.
“I don’t want show ponies,” Ryan said. “That means the White House will need to be a part of this and we’ll need a bill the president will sign.”
Ryan said he wants an immigration vote to happen “before the midterms,” but does not support the move from moderate Republicans who filed the discharge petition. But Brat said Ryan should do more to oppose the discharge petition.
“Leadership is saying it is a show pony and so that is good news, but I wish leadership would assure us that it is not going to go through, and leadership has plenty of tools to make sure that this does not happen,” Brat said.
Rep. Ken Buck, R-Colo., told The Daily Signal in a phone interview that he does not support the discharge petition.
“If a discharge petition brings a series of bills to the floor that doesn’t result in enhanced border security and the other parts of the Goodlatte bill, all hell will break loose in the Republican conference,” Buck said.
A Thursday op-ed in The Wall Street Journal praised the discharge petition.
“Bravo to 19 Republicans who have signed a discharge petition to debate a fix for the so-called Dreamers, which would be an instructive exercise,” the op-ed read.
James Carafano, vice president of The Heritage Foundation’s Davis Institute for National Security and Foreign Policy, said in a statement Thursday that the discharge petition effort is counterproductive to passing immigration reform.
“The current effort in Congress is nothing more than an effort to expedite amnesty, rather than tackle the critical immigration reforms conservatives have long recommended and for which the Trump administration has asked,” Carafano said, adding:
Instead of focusing on political sideshows, the federal government must first begin by enforcing immigration laws already on the books. Only then will it have the credibility to address the hard issues around what to do with those here illegally.
Below are the names of the lawmakers who have signed on as of Thursday to the discharge petition.
- Carlos Curbelo, R-Fla.
- Jeff Denham, R-Calif.
- David G. Valadao, R-Calif.
- Will Hurd, R-Texas
- Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Fla.
- Mia B. Love, R-Utah
- Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla.
- Charles W. Dent, R-Pa.
- Fred Upton, R-Mich.
- David G. Reichert, R-Wash.
- Mike Coffman, R-Colo.
- Chris Collins, R-N.Y.
- John J. Faso, R-N.Y.
- Mark E. Amodei, R-Nev.
- Elise M. Stefanik, R-N.Y.
- Leonard Lance, R-N.J.
- Ryan A. Costello, R-Pa.
- Stephen Knight, R-Calif.
- Diana DeGette, D-Colo.
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