An effort led by Rep. Jeff Denham to force a vote on four immigration reform bills fell apart this week, leaving local Democrats who supported the proposal wanting answers as House Republicans tout a new “compromise” bill.
In May, a group of Republican lawmakers, including Denham, introduced a discharge petition to force a series of floor votes on four Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, immigration and border security bills. The discharge petition needed 218 signatures to force a vote on H.Res. 774, introduced by Denham in March, allowing members of Congress to debate the issue on the House floor under the “queen of the hill” rule.
Just hours before the petition deadline on Tuesday, the moderates led by Denham failed to get the signatures needed and settled instead on a plan from Speaker Paul Ryan and other Republican leaders to bring up two partisan bills next week: one more conservative bill and a Republican compromise bill that was completed Thursday.
Prior to the deadline, Denham spoke with Fox News and shared his reasoning behind the discharge petition.
“Our goal has been to empower the Speaker not only with the rule I initially authored, but by the discharge to give him the leverage to actually get what the President is asking for,” Denham said. “We’ve got to have certainty for Dreamers, but that means we’ve got to have border security as well.”
In the meantime, the fate of hundreds of thousands DACA recipients hangs in the balance, leading local progressive groups to protest outside of Denham’s Salida office on Thursday. Democratic Congressional District 10 candidate and Denham challenger Josh Harder accused Denham of backtracking on the original discharge petition by supporting the compromise bill.
Cynical Washington Republicans never had any real intention of fighting for Dreamers nor working with Democrats to pass a bipartisan solution into law. It’s disgraceful that so many vulnerable House Republicans pretended to care but have now so publicly betrayed Dreamers and their constituents out of fealty to their party bosses.DCCC Spokesperson Javier Gamboa
“It’s crystal clear that there will not be immigration reform with this Congress…we’ve learned that no matter how much (Denham) talks about how important immigration reform is, when push comes to shove he’s going to pick his party’s leadership ahead of his constituents,” Harder said.
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has targeted California’s 10th Congressional District as one it hopes to flip from red to blue this November, and called out “vulnerable” House Republicans, including Denham, for “selling out and displaying a shocking lack of backbone on immigration reform.”
“Cynical Washington Republicans never had any real intention of fighting for Dreamers nor working with Democrats to pass a bipartisan solution into law. It’s disgraceful that so many vulnerable House Republicans pretended to care but have now so publicly betrayed Dreamers and their constituents out of fealty to their party bosses,” DCCC Spokesperson Javier Gamboa said. “Voters will remember their stunning lack of backbone in November.”
Amid the accusations from Democrats, Denham’s office provided some clarification to The Journal on what was called “misinformation” being spread about the discharge petition. While some Democrats have accused Denham of “dropping” the discharge petition, the House has until June 25 to consider such a proposal. At the latest, signatures need to be collected seven legislative days before that date.
The signatures still have time to be collected and would bring forward bipartisan bills like the Denham-cosponsored Dream Act, which provides a path to true citizenship for Dreamers, and another measure that couples Dreamer citizenship with increased border security.
While the newly-created compromise bill and the more conservative Goodlatte bill are expected to get a vote in the House next week, President Donald Trump on Friday said that he would not support the House immigration compromise. Several hours later, however, the White House clarified that he in fact would support the legislation.
The compromise bill’s text was released on Thursday and seems to support the “four pillars” that Trump mandated in January, including money for the wall, elimination of the diversity visa lottery, curbing family-based immigration and providing a way for DACA recipients to apply for formal legal status in the U.S.
The bill would end the “catch and release” program, which allows those detained for crossing the border to return to their home country if they have no criminal record, authorizes funding for construction of the border wall, eliminates the visa lottery for a merit-based green card program with 55,000 visas and permits the DACA population to apply for a six-year indefinitely renewable contingent nonimmigrant legal status.
The end goal, Denham told Fox News, is to create security and certainty on both sides of the spectrum.
“I don’t think Republicans should be afraid to face this in the elections,” he said. “We ought to be championing not only fighting for certainty for Dreamers, but we ought to be championing the fact that we’re going to secure our border.”