Late Tuesday night, just before their self-imposed deadline expired, Republican leadership reached a deal that would allow a vote on two conservative immigration bills next week, squashing the chances for a vote on a bill to protect Dreamers.
A discharge petition pushed by centrists who sought to bypass GOP leadership to protect Dreamers garnered 215 signatures when 218 were needed. Only one House Democrat, Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-TX), failed to sign the petition over concerns that the proposed bill would include funding for the President Trump’s wall along the southern border. He said if two other Republicans opted to sign the petition, he would have been the 218th signature.
Instead, Republicans held the line. House Speaker Paul Ryan will give the House two options: 1) vote for a very right-wing bill that would only offer temporary protections for Dreamers or 2) vote for a bill that doesn’t exist yet.
The first bill, authored by Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), would make deep cuts to legal immigration and boost immigration enforcement within the U.S. in addition to would temporary status for DACA recipients. Goodlatte’s bill is currently favored by GOP leadership and the hard-right House Freedom Caucus members. The second bill is yet to be written, but is anticipated to be a compromise between conservatives and moderates that mainly follows the framework set forth by the White House: legal status for Deamers, border security, an end to the diversity visa lottery, and curbing family-based legal immigration. This “compromise” likely won’t have much success, considering the Congress rejected the White House framework last February.
Nevertheless, some Republican moderates who championed the discharge petition still see this as a win.
“For many years, and for different reasons, leaders from both parties have refused to allow the House to act to secure a future for young immigrants brought to our country as children, while making Americans safer and more prosperous by strengthening border security,” Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-FL), one of the original backers of the discharge petition, said in a statement Tuesday night.
Curbelo was careful to mention that he still believes it is “vital our colleagues remain committed to the discharge petition” until everything is set in stone. The Florida Republican supports a path to citizenship for Dreamers, so he may be dismayed by the two options GOP leadership has presented.
Curbelo has repeatedly stated that the discharge petition effort could be relaunched in July, allowing one more shot to force votes on more moderate immigration legislation, however former Rep. Charlie Dent (R-PA) won’t be around to sign it because of his retirement and Rep. Chris Collins (R-NY), while also having endorsed the discharge petition, has recently revealed he’s been pushing a vote for the Goodlatte bill all along.
There is one thing for certain: Paul Ryan is the clear winner in this immigration battle. If the discharge petition he opposed received the amount of signatures needed, the House would be forced to vote on a bill that would give permanent legal status to DACA recipients in addition to the Goodlatte and mystery bill. Because Republicans have such a slim majority in the House, it is likely the most moderate of the options would have passed.
By negotiating a “compromise” that follows the strict framework set forth by the White House and effectively stopping the discharge petition, Ryan has ensured that the fate of hundreds of thousands of immigrants who came to the country as children through no fault of their own will remain in limbo.