Mod­er­ate Repub­li­cans fall short in bid to pro­tect ‘Dream­ers’

Houston Chronicle - - NATION | WORLD - By Kevin Diaz Wash­ing­ton correspondent Bill Lam­brecht con­trib­uted to this re­port.

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.


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