Hoyer: GOP centrists ‘sold out’ Dreamers

Greg Nash

House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) charged Tuesday that Republican immigration reformers “deserted” so-called Dreamers in the face of pressure from GOP leaders and conservative hard-liners.

Hoyer said the centrist Republicans “caved” by embracing a deal from Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) to consider two Republican immigration bills — a hard-line proposal and a more moderate compromise between centrists and conservatives — while shelving bipartisan legislation that stands a better chance of moving through the House.


The two GOP bills are expected to hit the floor later this week. But in their current form, neither measure is thought to have the support to pass.

That would leave open questions about the fate of not only Dreamers — immigrants who came to the U.S. illegally as children — but also the migrant families being separated at the U.S.-Mexico border under a Trump administration policy.

“The bottom line is the moderates lost their nerve, and they blinked,” Hoyer said during a press briefing in the Capitol on Tuesday.

“It’s beyond comprehension that moderate Republicans have sold out the Dreamers, have deserted the Dreamers.”

This year’s immigration debate had for months revolved around ways to salvage the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which President Trump announced last year he would cancel.

But the issue of Dreamers has recently become overshadowed by the administration’s adoption of a “zero tolerance” border enforcement policy, which has left more than 2,000 migrant children separated from their parents as the administration steps up prosecution of adults who illegally cross the border.

The policy shift — and the subsequent, on-the-ground reports showing children kept in metal cages — has prompted a public outcry, with more Republicans openly criticizing the administration’s practice by the day.

It’s also sent Ryan and GOP leaders scrambling to include language in their DACA compromise bill that addresses the swelling concerns over separated kids without stepping on the toes of those in the White House.

Democrats contend the Republicans’ compromise DACA bill, which was unveiled last Thursday, does not explicitly end the separation of migrant families.

“Ryan’s bill does nothing to stop the administration from continuing this policy,” Hoyer said. 

Eyeing votes on Thursday, GOP leaders have tweaked their draft bill to require the Department of Homeland Security “to house families together WHILE parents are going through criminal proceedings for the misdemeanor of first-time illegal border crossing,” according to a GOP source familiar with the changes.

“This is a change from current practice which requires DOJ criminal custody during criminal proceedings, and thus leads to family separation,” the source said Tuesday in an email.

Ryan and GOP leaders will pitch those changes to their restive conference in a high-stakes meeting on the topic in the Capitol Tuesday evening. Trump, who remains a wildcard in the debate, is scheduled to attend.

Trump and other top administration officials, meanwhile, have defended the policy shift as both a smart deterrent to would-be illegal border crossers and a legal requirement dictated by existing law. Yet there is no law stipulating that migrant families must be separated after being apprehended, and past presidents of both parties rejected the adoption of such a policy out of humanitarian concerns.

Trump, on numerous occasions in recent days, has falsely accused the Democrats of forcing the administration’s hand with “horrible laws” decreeing the separations — a strategy he amplified on Tuesday.

“Democrats are the problem. They don’t care about crime and want illegal immigrants, no matter how bad they may be, to pour into and infest our Country, like MS-13,” Trump tweeted

“They can’t win on their terrible policies, so they view them as potential voters!”

The accusations have not been overlooked by Democrats like Hoyer, who called Trump’s claim “a bold-faced lie.” 

“It is absolutely not true,” Hoyer said. “The president continues to pretend that it’s someone else’s responsibility.”

What impact the child separations will have on the broader immigration debate remains unclear.  

Centrist Republicans, frustrated with Ryan’s inaction on DACA, had taken the rare step of launching a procedural maneuver to circumvent GOP leaders and force votes on four separate immigration bills, two of which are bipartisan. Known as a discharge petition, the gambit won the support of 216 House lawmakers, including 23 Republicans, but fell two signatures short of the threshold required to compel votes on the floor. 

The lawmakers championing the discharge petition  — including Reps. Carlos Curbelo (R-Fla.), Will Hurd (R-Texas) and Jeff Denham (R-Calif.) — insist that they’ll continue their effort even if the two Republican DACA bills fail on the floor this week. But House rules dictate that they’d have to start from scratch, raising real doubts that they could find the 218 signatures needed to force action on more popular DACA legislation before the next signing deadline, which is July 11.

Hoyer on Tuesday said the Democrats would get behind a second discharge petition. But he also hammered Ryan — who opposed both the dismantling of DACA and the practice of separating families at the border — for failing to resolve both issues quickly.

“He says that [but] he doesn’t do anything. So his words are empty,” Hoyer said.

“If they don’t like it, do something.”

Tags Carlos Curbelo DACA Discharge petition Donald Trump Immigration Jeff Denham Paul Ryan Steny Hoyer Will Hurd

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