Few voice support after House GOP releases 293-page DACA bill

Greg Nash

House GOP leaders sent a 293-page immigration bill to their members on Thursday designed to bridge the substantial divide between the centrist reformers and conservative immigration hawks in their conference. 

Early reactions suggest the bill is unlikely to do so, with members of both the far-right Freedom Caucus and conservative Republican Study Committee telling The Hill they planned to vote “no” on the compromise.

Rep. Dave Brat (R-Va.), a Freedom Caucus member and immigration hard-liner facing a competitive reelection battle, described the compromise effort as “hasty political maneuvers pasted together at the last minute.”

{mosads}“We gotta go back and talk to our constituents. When they hear about this deal, it’ll be a no. They won’t be happy,” Brat told The Hill.

Rep. Carlos Curbelo, a reform-minded Florida Republican who’s been at the center of the GOP negotiations, said he’ll seek changes. 

“We’re still reviewing it and there are some areas where we’re looking to make some changes, so not ready to make a final decision yet,” Curbelo said.

Rep. Mark Walker (R-N.C.), who heads the Republican Study Committee (RSC), suggested he’ll also fight for amendments. 

“I don’t think it’s arrived quite yet,” he said. 

Further reducing the bill’s odds, Heritage Action, an influential conservative group, is urging lawmakers to oppose the package, citing the “Dreamer” benefits.

“While lawmakers fighting to build a national consensus for an immigration policy that works for hundreds of millions of Americans deserve credit, those changes cannot be predicated on codification of amnesty,” said Tim Chapman, the group’s executive director.

The bill features the “four-pillars” approach demanded by President Trump, including protections for so-called Dreamers; new enhancements in border security, including President Trump’s promised border wall; new limits on family migration; and an end to the diversity visa lottery program, which promotes new arrivals from countries with low rates of immigration. 

White House aide Stephen Miller has been sitting in on negotiations between centrist and conservative Republicans over the past week, a signal the White House could support the final product — but a harbinger for opposition from Democrats given his hard-line approach to the issue.

“This is DOA,” said one Democratic aide, predicting no member of the minority would vote for it.

Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.), whose office sent out the bill text to Republican offices, emphasized the administration’s role in the process.

“We’re talking today about the details and clearly Steven Miller and others in the administration have been directly involved in a lot of the discussions and negotiations we’ve been having. They like what’s in the bill and the president really likes the fact that it fully funds the wall,” he said.

Ryan on Thursday said he doesn’t know if the bill has the support to pass the House, but suggested the real goal is simply to allow those Republicans seeking to vote on immigration ahead of November’s midterms the opportunity to do so. 

“We won’t guarantee passage,” Ryan told reporters in the Capitol. “But we want to give members their ability to express their positions.”

At the center of the package is the creation of a new merit-based visa system providing legal cover to those in the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. Those visas would also be available to other groups of immigrants — a strategy designed to appease those wary of providing a “special” pathway to citizenship for the Dreamers.

The proposal includes $23.4 billion for border security, including $16.6 billion for a “border wall system” to be spread out over the next decade. In fiscal 2019, which begins Oct. 1, the wall would get $2.2 billion. In fiscal 2020, the figure would be $1.8 billion.

The legislation eliminates the diversity visa lottery program in favor of a point-based system that factors in education level, employment, military service and proficiency in the English language. 

It also eliminates the presumption that accompanied minors should not be apprehended. That presumption, based on a ruling known as the Flores settlement agreement, has been derided by the Trump administration as one of several “loopholes” used by immigrants without legal status to abuse immigration law.

The new language bans the release of minors to the care of adults who are not their parents or guardians, and gives authority to the Secretary of Homeland Security to decide when a minor can be kept in detention.

Other key components of the bill include: 

  • An additional $6.8 billion for other border security measures, including new roads, repairs to existing sections of the wall, drones and and new sensor technologies designed to distinguish between humans and animals.
  • A trigger mechanism that would withhold permanent residency for DACA recipients in any year that Congress denies funding for the border wall — a system designed to ensure wall funding even if the next president is opposed to it.
  • Another stipulation that the administration must sustain an active force of at least 26,370 border security agents by October of 2023. 
Tags Carlos Curbelo DACA Donald Trump Immigration Mark Walker Steve Scalise
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