House

Pelosi, Dems hammer GOP for ‘derailing’ DACA debate

Greg Nash

House Democrats are hammering GOP leaders for scuttling the bipartisan effort to protect immigrants who came to the United States illegally as children.

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“If Republicans plan to use Dreamers as a way to advance @realDonaldTrump⁩’s xenophobic, anti-immigrant agenda, they will get a fight from House Democrats,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) tweeted late Tuesday.

After a series of last-minute negotiations Tuesday, Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) cut an immigration deal with his conservative wing to bring a vote next week on two Republican bills designed to bolster enforcement of immigration laws and provide legal protections to so-called Dreamers.

The strategy effectively extinguished a bid by centrist Republicans to force action on a series of proposals to rescue the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, including two bipartisan bills deemed to have the best chance of moving through the lower chamber.

The plan mitigates the potential for a damaging internal fight among Republicans over immigration — an issue that’s divided the party for years — heading into the pivotal midterm elections. But it’s also lowered the chances that a DACA bill will reach President Trump’s desk — or even the Senate — this year. 

Democrats wasted no time accusing Republican leaders of undermining the DACA debate to protect GOP lawmakers from taking tough votes — a cynical strategy, the Democrats charge, that will leave the Dreamers in limbo for months or years to come.

“Instead of allowing the House to work its will and vote on a bipartisan compromise bill to end these families’ uncertainty Speaker Ryan continues to dissemble and delay,” Rep. Steny Hoyer (Md.), the Democratic whip, said in a statement.

“This is a pretend attempt to appear that he is addressing the DACA crisis when he is not.”

The first proposal to receive a vote next week is a hard-line bill, sponsored by Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.). That bill is favored by conservatives but doesn’t currently have the support, even among Republicans, to pass through the House.

The second proposal is a more moderate compromise, designed to attract more centrist Republicans, that would extend further benefits to the Dreamers, including an eventual pathway to citizenship. But that bill is still in the works, and its enforcement provisions are sure to be opposed by virtually every Democrat. It remains unclear if it can win the votes needed to move to the Senate.

Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D-N.M.), who heads the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, called the Republicans’ strategy “reckless and political,” warning that it puts thousands of Dreamers — including workers and students — at risk of deportation. 

“The fact is that not having a solution that protects Dreamers affects every cross-section of American society,” she said late Tuesday. 

Ryan’s announcement to address immigration next week arrived just as centrist Republicans were on the verge of securing the necessary support for their DACA discharge petition — a procedural gambit to force bills to the floor against the wishes of the majority party’s leadership.

Sponsored by Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R), who’s facing a tough reelection bid in South Florida, the petition had been endorsed by 216 lawmakers, including 23 Republicans, by Tuesday night.

If two more lawmakers had signed on, it would have forced votes on June 25 on four separate DACA bills: the conservative Goodlatte proposal; the liberal Dream Act; a bill of Ryan’s choosing; and a bipartisan compromise, sponsored by Reps. Will Hurd (R-Texas) and Pete Aguilar (D-Calif.), that combines the Dreamer protections with enhancements to border security.  

The Hurd-Aguilar bill, endorsed by almost 250 lawmakers from both parties, was thought to have the best chance of winning the “queen-of-the-hill” contest promoted by Curbelo’s discharge petition. But conservatives were up in arms at the thought that a Republican-led House would advance a bill that provides “amnesty” to immigrants here illegally.

After weeks of closed-door negotiations between the centrists and conservatives, members of the far-right House Freedom Caucus huddled Tuesday night to weigh their options. Following the meeting, the leaders of the group — including Reps. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) and Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) — met again with Ryan in the Speaker’s office to lay out their demands. Ryan’s announcement on next week’s votes came shortly afterward. 

None of the centrists appeared to be present at the meeting, and some were quick to grumble that Ryan’s strategy is sure to fail if the aim is to protect the Dreamers.

Hurd, a leading supporter of the discharge petition, said his proposal with Aguilar is “the only bipartisan piece of legislation in solving border security and committing to solve the [DACA] problem.“ He took to the House floor to blast the Republicans’ prioritization of a border wall and lament the breakdown of bipartisanship.

“We’re not going to solve this problem with a 30-foot-high concrete structure that takes four hours to penetrate,” said Hurd, who represents a district boasting 820 miles of the U.S.-Mexico border, more than any other House lawmaker.

“If we’re going to get anything done to solve real big problems in this country, we’ve got to do it in a bipartisan fashion.” 

Tags Bob Goodlatte Carlos Curbelo DACA Discharge petition Donald Trump Dreamers goodlatte bill House Immigration Jim Jordan Mark Meadows Michelle Lujan Grisham Nancy Pelosi Paul Ryan Pete Aguilar Speaker Steny Hoyer Will Hurd

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