Moderate House Republicans are defying party leadership to force through a deal shielding recipients of the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program from deportation.
The last-ditch effort is being led by five conservative centrists, who, according to POLITICO, filed a discharge petition Wednesday. Hoping to pressure President Donald Trump into protecting Dreamers — young immigrants who entered the United States illegally as children — the petition would trigger a series of votes on immigration policy.
To succeed in leaving the House, the petition would need at least 218 signatories. Reaching that number requires the full support of Democrats as well as the defection of 25 Republican representatives. POLITICO reports that, as of Wednesday, at least 17 GOP legislators had signed aboard.
If passed, the petition will set up votes on four separate immigration measures. Among them are a proposal by Virginia Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R), which would extend DACA benefits through 2020 in exchange for enhanced border wall funding and a drop-off in visa allowances. Another, sponsored by Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA), would simply transition the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program into federal law.
Speaker of the House and Majority Leader Paul Ryan has vocally opposed the petition, purportedly working ‘behind the scenes’ to prevent its enactment. Ryan, along with some other Republicans, has argued that any legislation moving through the House must be viable for the Senate and President Trump.
“I don’t want show ponies,” said Ryan, noting that Trump is unlikely to lend his support to the endeavor. “That means the White House will need to be part of this and we’ll need a bill the president will sign.”
Despite Ryan’s skepticism, other Republicans in migrant-heavy districts are becoming desperate for a fix before midterms.
“There are a million plus men and women who don’t have certainty,” said Republican Rep. Will Hurd, whose district runs 120 miles along the Rio Grande. “These are men and women who have contributed to our economy, to our history… these are people who are Americans and they need a permanent legislative fix.”
While President Donald Trump officially rescinded DACA in September, he’s signaled a willingness to negotiate the program’s future. Initially supportive of any legislation that’d keep young Dreamers safe from deportation, the commander-in-chief has since taken to using their plight as a political bargaining chip.
Of the four proposals, Goodlatte’s is the only one which comes close to matching Trump’s expectations.
However, Congress failed to pass any comprehensive immigration reform in winter – a failure which Trump insists has brought the end of negotiation. Any plan moving forward, says the president, must include money for a longer, bigger and stronger wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.
Even if the petition discharges the four measures onto the House floor for consideration, there’s no guarantee that the conundrum of Dreamers can be solved. The discharge, using what The Washington Post calls a ‘Queen of the Hill’ system, would pass whichever measure achieves the most votes beyond the majority out of the House.
Still, there’s no clear path through the Senate, which itself couldn’t muster a single success out of four attempts at immigration reform.
And ultimately, the Chief Executive wields the power to veto any measure which meets his desk but not his demands.