House Dems rebuff Trump’s four-tier DACA approach

House Dems rebuff Trump’s four-tier DACA approach
© Greg Nash

House Democratic leaders pushed back at President TrumpDonald John TrumpOver 100 lawmakers consistently voted against chemical safeguards: study CNN's Anderson Cooper unloads on Trump Jr. for spreading 'idiotic' conspiracy theories about him Cohn: Jamie Dimon would be 'phenomenal' president MORE’s demand Wednesday that legislation on border security and “Dreamers” also include changes to legal immigration.

The heads of the House Democratic Caucus, Reps. Joseph Crowley (N.Y.) and Linda Sánchez (Calif.), said Trump’s insistence that a bill also reduce family-based migration and eliminate the diversity visa lottery would be a deal-killer for many Democrats.

The two Democrats set their sights on a narrow bill that includes border security and legislation on the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, arguing the four-part plan demanded by the White House won’t fly with their caucus.

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“Let’s focus on Dreamers with some elements of border security, keep it very narrowly focused,” Sánchez told reporters in the Capitol. “We’re better to stick to a narrow focus, and we’ll deal with the thornier issues that we can’t agree on in a comprehensive immigration bill.”

The Democrats’ messaging on DACA has been somewhat muddled by disagreements over the contours of a deal. While most Democrats seem to oppose the four-tier approach that addresses legal immigration, House Minority Leader Nancy PelosiNancy Patricia D'Alesandro PelosiPelosi calls on Ryan to bring long-term Violence Against Women Act to floor Dems' confidence swells with midterms fast approaching GOP: The economy will shield us from blue wave MORE (D-Calif.) has endorsed a Senate proposal — sponsored by Sens. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamCriticizing Trump’s ‘unsung success’ in Puerto Rico is valid — empty rhetoric is not Biden: Delay Kavanaugh vote to give accuser a fair, respectful hearing Ken Starr says 'I trust Brett Kavanaugh' over allegations that are 'so wildly out of character' MORE (R-S.C.) and Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinTop Senate Dem: Public hearing is ‘only way to go’ for Kavanaugh accuser Durbin calls for delay in Kavanaugh vote Dems engage in last-ditch effort to block Kavanaugh MORE (D-Ill.) — that does just that.

More recently Pelosi has given voice to a narrower House bill, championed by Reps. Will HurdWilliam Ballard HurdDem introduces bill to create federal cybersecurity apprenticeship program Koch group launches digital ads in tight Texas House race Gingrich: Bushes view themselves as closer to Obamas, Clintons than to Trump MORE (R-Texas) and Peter Aguilar (D-Calif.), that couples DACA protections with border security and excludes the other two pillars.

The four-part plan would also include changes to family-based immigration, which conservatives describe as “chain migration,” and end the visa lottery program that awards visas to countries with lower numbers of people coming to the United States.

Democratic opposition to a far-reaching DACA bill would likely prove consequential, since House GOP leaders will almost certainly need a significant number of Democratic votes to move such legislation through the lower chamber, where Republicans are sharply divided on immigration issues. 

Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanPelosi calls on Ryan to bring long-term Violence Against Women Act to floor Juan Williams: America warms up to socialism Jordan hits campaign trail amid bid for Speaker MORE (R-Wis.) on Wednesday declined to guarantee there would even be a floor vote on DACA under his watch. 

After weeks of pressure from conservatives, Ryan and House GOP leaders agreed Tuesday to begin whipping DACA legislation favored by immigration hawks. Sponsored by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob GoodlatteRobert (Bob) William GoodlatteVirginia reps urge Trump to declare federal emergency ahead of Hurricane Florence Republicans mull new punishments for dissident lawmakers Republicans ready to grill Bruce Ohr as Trump-DOJ feud escalates MORE (R-Va.), the bill would provide legal protections to Dreamers — but not a path to citizenship — combined with a host of tough enforcement measures and a reduction in legal immigration. 

“What's the point of just fixing part of it, and then having the same problem five, 10 years down the road?” Ryan asked. “That is why we're talking about interior enforcement. That's why we're talking about border security.”

The Goodlatte proposal has no Democratic support, however, and it’s unlikely that House GOP leaders have the Republican votes to pass it on their own. If it did move through the lower chamber, Democrats have warned that it would be dead on arrival in the Senate. 

“It’s not a bipartisan bill, and he’s dreaming if he thinks that that is a solution,” said Sánchez.

Democrats have pounced on Ryan’s strategy, accusing the Speaker of jeopardizing Dreamers through inaction.

“Paul Ryan is the sole impediment to us passing a bipartisan bill that would give the relief that Dreamers need and deserve,” said Sánchez.

The comments arrive as immigration reformers are scrambling to salvage DACA — which provides legal protections to hundreds of thousands of young immigrants brought to the country illegally as kids — ahead of a March 5 deadline set by Trump last year. 

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellMurkowski echoes calls for Kavanaugh, accuser to testify McConnell rips Democrats for handling of Kavanaugh nomination Kavanaugh furor intensifies as calls for new testimony grow MORE (R-Ky.) is presiding this week over an open-ended amendment process designed to construct a DACA bill from scratch that can defeat a filibuster and pass the upper chamber. Bipartisan negotiators are working on several such bills, but it’s unclear if any enjoy the support of 60 senators — or the president. 

Meanwhile, the window for action appears to be closing quickly. McConnell has given Senate negotiators until Thursday to reach a deal. 

“The failure to address … DACA will be squarely on the heads of McConnell and Ryan,” Crowley predicted Wednesday. 

“It will be their legacy.”