Moderate Republicans fall short in bid to protect ‘Dreamers’
WASHINGTON — Immigration activists and Hispanic lawmakers went on the attack Wednesday as a bipartisan push led by moderate Republicans to pass legislation protecting “Dreamers” appeared to collapse amid opposing GOP factions.
Just two signatures short of the 218 needed to force votes on several immigration measures, the moderates — including San Antonio Republican Rep. Will Hurd — were forced to regroup, ceding the initiative to GOP leaders trying to negotiate a more conservative approach to the long-standing political impasse.
“We had 216 Republicans and Democrats, with only two signatures away, from bringing meaningful, bipartisan legislation to the House floor that would finally give our nation’s ‘Dreamers’ clarity on their future,” said Rep. Joaquin Castro, a Democrat from San Antonio.
Instead, the House will vote next week on two more hard-line immigration proposals that could decide the fate of young immigrants brought into the country illegally as children, known as “Dreamers.”
One is a measure co-sponsored by Houston-area Republican Michael McCaul, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, that would provide temporary visas to “Dreamers” but no guarantee of a path to citizenship. The other, which has not been finalized, is believed to be a compromise measure that might offer an eventual path to citizenship.
It is not clear whether either of the two plans, which would also beef up border security, could pass the House. But House Speaker Paul Ryan reportedly told Republicans at a closed meeting Wednesday that President Donald Trump would likely support his immigration plan, which is believed to be based on “pillars” the White House laid out earlier this year.
Those principles include limits on legal immigration and construction of his long-promised wall on the Mexican border, for which he has sought some $25 billion.
Left by the wayside is bipartisan legislation backed by Hurd and Rep. Jeff Denham, DCalif., that would offer border enhancements and a qualified path to citizenship for those who signed up for the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which Trump has sought to end.
That had been one of the measures the GOP moderates had hoped to bring for a vote, along with a more generous “Dreamer” legislation favored by Democrats.
But a “discharge” petition to bypass the House GOP leadership and force a series of floor votes — a rare legislative maneuver — did not appear to have the necessary support by Tuesday’s deadline for action by the end of this month.
Hurd and other organizers had predicted the needed signatures were assured in recent weeks as they closed in on the 218-signature threshold. But their efforts were resisted by Ryan and leaders of the conservative Freedom Caucus. Some Republican leaders have said openly that a straight up-ordown vote on “Dreamer” legislation could hurt vulnerable Republican lawmakers and threaten their party’s control of the House after the 2018 midterm elections.
Frank Sharry, executive director of the immigrant advocacy group America’s Voice, decried the moderates’ defeat. “This is not about protecting ‘Dreamers,’” he said. “It’s part of a process that protects re-election prospects.”
Democrats also joined the attack, singling out Republicans in swing districts, including Hurd and Florida Republican Carlos Curbelo.
“House Republicans’ latest failure to deliver for ‘Dreamers’ is made all the more inexcusable by their many empty promises that they would get the signatures and move on the discharge petition,” said Javier Gamboa, a spokesman for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. “If vulnerable members like Carlos Curbelo, Will Hurd and Jeff Denham can’t get the job done with their party controlling all of Washington, they have no business serving in Congress.”
In a statement, Hurd’s Democratic challenger, Gina Ortiz Jones, said the congressman’s record on ‘Dreamers’ “continues to be all talk, no success.”
Hurd’s office said he was not available for comment Wednesday.