Two Democrats on the fence over immigration discharge petition
Two Texas Democrats are withholding support for a push to force a House vote on four immigration bills because two of those bills include funding for a border wall.
Rep. Filemon Vela (D-Texas), an outspoken opponent of President Trump’s proposed border wall, panned Minority Whip Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), who Tuesday said Democrats would be willing to pay for the wall in exchange for protection for so-called Dreamers.
“Are the $1.7 billion already appropriated by Congress to build Trump’s border wall, without an inkling of immigration relief, not enough for Steny Hoyer?” asked Vela.
“Now, he’s ready to give Trump more for his wall? The sad truth is that border communities cannot count on current Democratic leadership to protect this country for the ever-expanding acceptance of Trump’s atrocious border wall,” he added.
Rep. Vicente González (D-Texas) — who represents the district neighboring Vela’s — is also not on board the push for current immigration legislation.
“What I’m worried about is we’re going to trade the wall for our vote,” González told The Hill.
Hoyer, who called the wall an ineffective solution to illegal immigration, spoke out in favor of a potential deal in the context of a Republican-led fight to force an immigration bill on the House floor.
A group of Republicans, led by Reps. Carlos Curbelo (Fla.) and Jeff Denham (Calif.), is collecting signatures on what’s known as a discharge petition to circumvent leadership and have the House vote on the immigration bills.
The discharge petition would bring to the floor what’s known as a “Queen of the Hill” rule proposed by Denham, where four bills would compete and the House would pass whichever got the most votes above the 50 percent threshold.
The bills in the Queen of the Hill rule so far are a conservative bill proposed by Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.); the Dream Act, which would grant a path to citizenship to 1.8 million Dreamers; the USA Act, which would pair the Dream Act with $25 billion for border security; and a bill of Speaker Paul Ryan’s (R-Wis.) choosing.
In effect, all proposals under the rule, save for the Dream Act, would fund a border wall.
The motion’s supporters met resistance from Republican leadership, but have so far signed on 20 Republicans — five short of the 25 they’d need if all Democrats also support the measure.
The residents of Rio Grande Valley in Texas, which González and Vela represent, generally opposes border wall construction. Aside from integration of cities on both sides of the border, many Texans resent the federal government using eminent domain to obtain land for the wall.
Asked about Hoyer’s comments, González noted the congressman isn’t from Texas.
“He doesn’t have the border in his district; we do,” said González.
“We can build a wall around Maryland, maybe that’ll be all right,” he added.
Still, González said he would also take into account the needs of Dreamers — immigrants who arrived in the country as minors.
González said he’d consider voting for the discharge petition and then starting federal litigation against wall construction to get legalization for Dreamers without building a wall.
“Dreamers don’t want the wall either, but I have Dreamers come into my office and say, ‘Hey, if you have to give up the wall to fix my issue, please do.’ But they’re from Chicago or, you know, the East Coast. But if they’re from the South Texas area or anywhere on the border, they’re opposed to both,” said González.
Minority Leader Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said that, regardless of Vela’s position, Democrats would support the measure overwhelmingly.
“So, if we had 99.44 percent — you wouldn’t know what that means, but that used to be what they said [about the purity of] Ivory Soap … In any event, we’ll have a strong Democrat [support]. If one person is not on the reservation, we’ll see when the time comes. But I respect Mr. Vela’s concerns about the border, for sure,” she said.
Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.) went even further.
“Oh, we’re going to get every Democrat. Stay tuned,” he said.
Still, Vela raised doubts about Democratic leaders’ authority on the issue.
“Let us not forget that this is the same Democratic leadership team that dropped immigrants in the grease when Democrats controlled the White House and both legislative chambers,” he said.
Vela, who left the door open to changing his mind on support for the discharge petition, called for a change in Democratic House leadership to stand up to Republican demands.
“Hoyer’s acquiescence to exchanging more border wall funding for DACA relief totally ignores the plight of the millions of immigrants unprotected by DACA, including those previously spared from deportation by being given Temporary Protected Status because of horrendous conditions in their home country,” he said.
Mike Lillis contributed.
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