Repub­li­cans feel pres­sure to join re­bel­lion, pass ‘Dreamer’ rights

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - BY SETH MCLAUGH­LIN

House Repub­li­cans may have been back home on va­ca­tion last week, but they were still fac­ing pres­sure to join the re­bel­lion against their party lead­ers and sign onto the pe­ti­tion drive to have Congress vote on grant­ing cit­i­zen­ship rights to il­le­gal im­mi­grant “Dream­ers.”

Some of the party’s biggest fi­nan­cial back­ers are try­ing to coax more Repub­li­cans to buck their lead­ers and sign the pe­ti­tion, as are editorial boards and im­mi­grant rights groups in home dis­tricts.

The dozens of Repub­li­cans tar­geted by the pres­sure cam­paign, though, have remained mostly si­lent. They are hop­ing to stay out of a fight in which many of them have to pick be­tween Pres­i­dent Trump on one side or ma­jor Repub­li­can Party donors like the Koch brothers on the other.

“You have to show that you are con­nect­ing with your base, you are lis­ten­ing with your base, but you also don’t want to get into a con­fronta­tion with the pres­i­dent,” said Al­fonso Aguilar, pres­i­dent of the Latino Part­ner­ship for Con­ser­va­tive Prin­ci­ples and an op­po­nent of the pe­ti­tion ef­fort.

The pe­ti­tion drive is be­ing led by a group of Repub­li­cans de­ter­mined to force a vote on the fate of Dream­ers. The ca­bal of law­mak­ers, each fac­ing com­pet­i­tive re-elec­tion races, is led by Reps. Will Hurd of Texas, Car­los Curbelo of Florida and Jeff Den­ham and David G. Val­adao, both of Cal­i­for­nia.

Their pe­ti­tion, if suc­cess­ful, would force Repub­li­can lead­ers to bring to the floor an im­mi­gra­tion bill and then hold votes on four competing pro­pos­als. The bill that gets the most votes would be the win­ner.

The likely vic­tor would be a plan spon­sored by Mr. Hurd that would grant a gen­er­ous path­way to cit­i­zen­ship to mil­lions of Dream­ers in ex­change for a fu­ture study of bor­der se­cu­rity needs. Other op­tions would in­clude an en­force­ment-first plan that would fund the pres­i­dent’s bor­der wall.

Back­ers have amassed 213 sig­na­tures, leav­ing them five short of the thresh­old for suc­cess.

Of those 213, 23 are Repub­li­cans. The Repub­li­can rebels say they should be able to col­lect many more eas­ily once Congress re­turns from its 10-day Me­mo­rial Day va­ca­tion.

“Re­gard­less of po­lit­i­cal af­fil­i­a­tion, ev­ery­one should sup­port a trans­par­ent de­bate that puts all our op­tions on the ta­ble for con­sid­er­a­tion,” Mr. Hurd said. “I re­main com­mit­ted to se­cur­ing 218 sig­na­tures and de­bat­ing the is­sue in front of the Amer­i­can peo­ple.”

All but three Democrats have signed onto the ef­fort.

The hold­outs, Reps. Henry Cuel­lar, File­mon Vela and Vi­cente Gon­za­les, are all from Texas. They say they fear the process could yield a deal that does more harm than good for bor­der com­mu­ni­ties if it leads to a bor­der wall.

“Rep­re­sen­ta­tives Vela, Gon­za­lez, and I are say­ing ‘no’ to sign­ing the pe­ti­tion,” Mr. Cuel­lar said in a state­ment. “As I’ve said in the past, I can­not sup­port a bor­der wall which is a 14th-cen­tury solution to a 21stcen­tury prob­lem. There are bet­ter ways at find­ing so­lu­tions … and I will con­tinue to work in a bi­par­ti­san way in Congress to prop­erly ad­dress these is­sues.”

Their op­po­si­tion has helped turn up the heat on about a dozen mod­er­ate Repub­li­cans hold­outs who have sup­ported like-minded ef­forts in the past.

Busi­ness groups have taken the lead in push­ing the Repub­li­can Party.

“The U.S. Cham­ber has been ac­tively en­gaged with members on ef­forts to start a much-needed de­bate on im­mi­gra­tion is­sues in the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives,” the cham­ber said in a state­ment to The Wash­ing­ton Times. “We have is­sued state­ments of sup­port to those members who have signed the dis­charge pe­ti­tion and have made clear that we will work with in­ter­ested members on any vi­able path to ad­vance bi­par­ti­san leg­is­la­tion that pro­tects Dream­ers from the threat of de­por­ta­tion and in­sti­tutes much-needed im­prove­ments to our na­tion’s bor­der se­cu­rity ef­forts.”

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