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 TrumpSanders says he wouldn't 'drop dead' if Trump decided on universal healthcare Overnight Health Care: Trump officials lay groundwork for May reopening | Democrats ramp up talks with Mnuchin on next relief deal | Fauci says death toll could be around 60,000 Hillicon Valley: State officials push for more election funds | Coronavirus surveillance concerns ramp up pressure for privacy bill | Senators warned not to use Zoom | Agencies ask FCC to revoke China Telecom's license 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 PelosiPelosi calls for investigation into reports of mistreatment of pregnant women in DHS custody Wisconsin highlights why states need a bipartisan plan that doesn't include Democrats federalizing elections Pelosi defends push for mail-in voting: GOP 'afraid' to let people vote MORE (D-Calif.) has endorsed a Senate proposal — sponsored by Sens. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamBipartisan senators call on China to close all wet markets Bipartisan lawmakers call for global 'wet markets' ban amid coronavirus crisis Trump attacks WHO amid criticism of his coronavirus response MORE (R-S.C.) and Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinSenate 'unlikely' to return on April 20, top GOP senator says Durbin: Bringing senators back in two weeks would be 'dangerous and risky' How the Senate should implement remote voting in emergencies MORE (D-Ill.) — that does just that.

More recently Pelosi has given voice to a narrower House bill, championed by Reps. Will HurdWilliam Ballard HurdGarth Brooks accepts Library of Congress's Gershwin Prize for Popular Song Texas kicks off critical battle for House control Gun control group plans to spend million in Texas in 2020 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 RyanWho should be the Democratic vice presidential candidate? The Pelosi administration It's not populism that's killing America's democracy 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 GoodlatteUSCIS chief Cuccinelli blames Paul Ryan for immigration inaction Immigrant advocacy groups shouldn't be opposing Trump's raids Top Republican releases full transcript of Bruce Ohr interview 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 McConnellThe Hill's Coronavirus Report: Former Trump advisor Bossert says to test the well, not ill; Senate standoff on next relief bill McCarthy slams Democrats on funding for mail-in balloting Harris, Ocasio-Cortez among Democrats calling for recurring direct payments in fourth coronavirus bill 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.”