GOP leaders try to cut deals to stop DACA vote
House Republican leaders, eager to stop an immigration showdown in their chamber, have begun cutting deals with lawmakers who might help moderate Republicans trigger bipartisan votes to protect Dreamers.
House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy phoned Rep. Dennis Ross on Monday and offered the Florida Republican what he wanted in hopes of keeping him from joining the moderates’ discharge petition: the promise of a vote on a guest worker program before August recess.
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Ross, who’s retiring at the end of the year, had been threatening for weeks to join Democrats along with two dozen Republicans to force a series of immigration votes addressing the Obama-era Deferred for Childhood Arrival program. The group needs only three more signatures to reach 218 threshold.
Ross appeared to be satisfied after the call from McCarthy. And it‘s unclear now whether GOP moderates will be able to garner enough support for the so-called discharge petition by the close of business Tuesday, as they originally intended.
“I’m probably going to take myself off the [discharge petition] watch list,” Ross said in a brief interview. A guest worker program for immigrants employed in agriculture and construction and the like “has been my big issue. We need to have labor. We’re in a negative population growth in the United States … Where we going to find people to do these jobs?”
It is unclear what Ross’ decision means for the discharge petition’s fate. Moderates on Friday began downplaying the Tuesday deadline, arguing that technically they could force the immigration matter in July or even later if they wanted.
If they push back their deadline, however, it will be the third time they’ve done so. Originally, moderates, who rarely go against leadership, said they wanted to have a deal with conservatives on immigration before the Memorial Day recess — or they’d force the issue and garner the final signatures before the break. That came and went, however, with moderates eyeing a June 7 deadline instead. Then the date became June 12.
Moderates argue that they have the signatures ready to go and have just been holding off to give leadership more time to come up with a DACA bill the majority of the conference can support.
If moderates are unwilling or unable to garner the final signatures, it’s unlikely that House Republicans will have any votes this summer to protect Dreamers from deportation. Talks between conservatives and moderates on the matter have stalled over enforcement matters, though GOP leaders will meet with both camps Tuesday night to continue negotiations.
Many Republicans are skeptical that they’ll be able to strike a deal. Indeed, top Republicans from the House Freedom Caucus told moderates that they’re unlikely to have an agreement by Tuesday, suggesting they forge ahead with their petition if that’s what they intended to do. That’s because moderates on Friday balked at conservatives‘ demands for beefed-up immigration enforcement measures in return for hard-liners’ support for a new path to citizenship for hundreds of thousands of Dreamers.
In discussions over the weekend that included party leaders as well as Reps. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), Carlos Curbelo (R-Fla.), Jeff Denham (R-Calif.), and Raúl Labrador (R-Idaho), among others, enforcement mechanisms under the new immigration proposal remained the biggest stumbling block to a deal.
Freedom Caucus members and other immigration hard-liners want to dramatically expand the use of E-Verify, the federal online system for checking individual employees‘ eligibility to work in the United States. The system currently is voluntary unless a state requires it or the employer is working on a federal contract.
The Freedom Caucus wants the use of E-Verify to be mandatory for all companies with 50 or more employees, a move opposed by the White House and business groups.
Another key issue is reform of the U.S. asylum system, which immigration opponents believe has been routinely abused. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced Monday that victims of domestic abuse or gang violence may not qualify for asylum. Sessions said there are about 700,000 immigration cases outstanding in federal courts as asylum claims have soared in recent years.
“Border security — and that is to include things well beyond any appropriations for wall funding — remains the biggest stumbling block,” said Meadows, chairman of the Freedom Caucus. “Most conservatives want to make sure if we deal with this DACA issue, we’re not having to deal with it again in another decade from now. That’s why the enforcement issue is so critical.”