Den­ham push for Dream­ers deal ad­vances

Manteca Bulletin - - Front Page - DEN­NIS WYATT

Jeff Den­ham doesn’t care about the po­lit­i­cal con­se­quences.

The con­gress­man just wants to do what is right.

It is why he’s part of a group of mod­er­ate Re­pub­li­cans push­ing for a floor vote this month on im­mi­gra­tion re­form.

“If this is the last thing I do as a con­gress­man, I will be very happy,” Den­ham told a gath­er­ing of the Man­teca Ro­tary last week of his bid to re­form im­mi­gra­tion.

Den­ham, in re­spond­ing to ques­tions, noted the stand he has taken has put him at odds with Re­pub­li­can House lead­er­ship that — should the GOP hold onto to the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives in the mid-term elec­tions — could cost him the pos­si­ble chair­man­ship of Trans­porta­tion and In­fras­truc­ture Committee that is key to

ef­fec­tively serv­ing his dis­trict. It also runs the risk of him los­ing sup­port in his re-elec­tion cam­paign from those who want a hard­line against the Dream­ers and all im­mi­gra­tion re­form.

“Ninety per­cent of ( the Dream­ers) are in college of have a job,” Den­ham told Ro­tar­i­ans.

Den­ham said ideally the group of mod­er­ates he is work­ing with will be able to get a per­ma­nent so­lu­tion that as­sures a clear path to ci­ti­zen­ship for the so-called “Dream­ers” — as many as 1.7 mil­lion who were brought to the United States by un­doc­u­mented im­mi­grant par­ents and who have been raised and schooled here. He told the Ro­tar­i­ans, how­ever, that it may first re­quir­ing tak­ing an in­ter­me­di­ary step in that di­rec­tion.

On Thurs­day, As­so­ci­ated Press re­ported that Den­ham had se­cured an of­fer from the hard-right House Freedom Cau­cus, young im­mi­grants brought il­le­gally to the U.S. as chil­dren could get a new visa that would let them stay in the coun­try for eight years. Den­ham ex­pressed un­cer­tainty over what would hap­pen af­ter that, but said par­tic­i­pants have char­ac­ter­ized the pro­posal as a bridge to the le­gal im­mi­gra­tion sys­tem — which sug­gests a path­way to re­main­ing in the U. S. per­ma­nently.

“This was their of­fer to us and it’s some­thing we can agree to, but not un­til we see it on pa­per,” Den­ham said.

The bro­kered deal also in­cludes pro­vi­sions for in­creased fund­ing to en­hance the bor­der wall in a bid to se­cure Pres­i­dent Trump’s sig­na­ture if the

Den­ham told Ro­tar­i­ans a bi-par­ti­san group of mod­er­ates ad­vo­cated a plan that would have given the Dream­ers a 5-year ex­ten­sion on their visas and — pro­vid­ing they con­tin­ued to pay taxes and did not com­mit se­ri­ous crimes — could pay an­other fee and af­ter an ad­di­tional five year pe­riod would be granted ci­ti­zen­ship.

Con­ser­va­tives have been adamant about not pro­vid­ing a “spe­cial” process carv­ing out a unique way for Dream­ers to gain le­gal sta­tus, and some of them bris­tled at Den­ham’s nar­rower de­scrip­tion. Rep. Car­los Curbelo, R- Fla., Den­ham’s fel­low mod­er­ate leader, said that while talks have fo­cused on pro­vid­ing le­gal sta­tus to Dream­ers, the pro­posal “does not in­volve a spe­cial path­way or a visa unique to any spe­cific group.”

Den­ham said that with­out a deal, the mod­er­ates’ threat to force the House to con­sider four im­mi­gra­tion bills re­mains in ef­fect. He and Curbelo need two more GOP sig­na­tures on a pe­ti­tion that could force those votes, as­sum­ing all Democrats sign. If they get them by next Tues­day, the House would be on track to have those roll calls on June 25.

“We have a firm deadline of next Tues­day,” Den­ham said. “We’re pre­pared to have the fi­nal sig­na­tures if there’s no agree­ment be­tween now and then.”

Den­ham said mod­er­ates would ac­cept bor­der se­cu­rity mea­sures as part of the ac­cord, in­clud­ing back­ing the full $25 bil­lion Trump wants to con­struct his pro­posed wall with Mex­ico. He also said the plan would ap­ply to more than the nearly 700,000 peo­ple who have been pro­tected by the Obama-era De­ferred Ac­tion for Child­hood Ar­rivals pro­gram, or DACA, that Trump has halted. Around an­other 1 mil­lion im­mi­grants are thought to have qual­i­fied for that pro­gram but not ap­plied, by some es­ti­mates.

Den­ham has been ad­vo­cat­ing for im­mi­gra­tion re­form since be­ing elected in 2010.

Seven years ago he first ad­vanced the En­list Act to al­low Dream­ers who en­list and serve hon­or­ably in the mil­i­tary to se­cure visas and even­tual ci­ti­zen­ship. It has been re­peat­edly re­jected although Den­ham noted more and more mem­bers of congress that had pre­vi­ously op­posed the bill — in­clud­ing Sen­a­tor John McCain — sup­ports it.

Den­ham told Ro­tar­i­ans the four bills be­ing ad­vanced to a vote on June 25 when two more sig­na­tures are ob­tained also pro­vides for more judges to ad­dress im­mi­gra­tion case back­logs that of­ten take at least two years be­fore they even get heard.

Den­ham said he spent ex­ten­sive time with the House par­lia­men­tar­ian in a bid to find a way to get im­mi­gra­tion leg­is­la­tion to a vote that has been re­peat­edly blocked from do­ing so. Den­ham and other Re­pub­li­cans cen­trists frus­trated about the lack of move­ment on im­mi­gra­tion re­form in March de­cided on a course of ac­tion us­ing rarely used House rules af­ter Congress failed to meet a deadline im­posed by Pres­i­dent Trump to act.

Den­ham noted that while Trump’s deadline in­volved re­mov­ing pro­tected sta­tus con­veyed by an ex­ec­u­tive or­der by for­mer Pres­i­dent Barack Obama, it has since been kept in place by a court in­junc­tion.

The Tur­lock Re­pub­li­can noted it still takes an act of congress to ei­ther make the visa pro­gram per­ma­nent or to cre­ate a path to ci­ti­zen­ship.

When Obama had a Congress con­trolled by the Demo­cratic Party, they failed to act on Dreamer leg­is­la­tion. Obama is­sued the ex­ec­u­tive or­der es­tab­lish­ing the De­ferred Ac­tion for Child­hood Ar­rivals (DACA) when Congress didn’t act. Trump set a deadline in March for Congress to “do their job” — as he put it — to de­vise and im­ple­ment a per­ma­nent so­lu­tion that couldn’t be un­done by a fiat from the ex­ec­u­tive branch.

Den­ham

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