A group of centrist House Republicans defied Speaker Paul Ryan on Wednesday (May 9) and launched an effort to force a vote on immigration legislation that would protect recipients of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, the Obama-era program that shields immigrants who came to the United States as children from deportation.
The group of 17 Republicans filed a discharge petition, which, if signed by a majority of House members, would force a vote on several immigration bills by June. The move is seen as a last ditch effort to force a vote on immigration legislation before November elections.
Several of the Republicans face tough re-election races in heavily Latinx districts and are worried about political liability if Congress fails to act on immigration. Ryan has urged the group to hold off until the Supreme Court decides on DACA’s fate.
"We believe this institution needs to act," Representative Carlos Curbelo (R-Fla.), who filed the petition, told press, according to The Washington Post. "Immigration has paralyzed this institution for too long, and we don’t view this in any way undermining House leaders. On the contrary, we feel that we’re also empowering them to deal with a very controversial issue."
The group needs eight more Republicans to sign on and all House Democrats. That would force votes on four plans. The measure with the most votes would then be adopted by the House. The four measures include a bipartisan proposal and conservative- and liberal-backed plans.
The GOP House measure, written by Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), would renew legal status for some 700,000 DACA recipients for three years without providing a path toward citizenship. It would also ramp up interior deportation efforts, which have already increased under the Trump presidency, and employ an additional 10,000 border agents.
The Democratic measure would provide a pathway to citizenship for roughly 1.8 million immigrants, something the White House supported earlier this year.
The bipartisan measure viewed as the bill most likely to pass would offer DACA recipients, commonly known as "Dreamers," legal status but not citizenship, while strengthening border security.
The petition’s backers argue that Republicans should use their House advantage before midterm elections, and say that they can no longer wait for the chamber’s leadership to forge an immigration bill.
One backer, Mario Diaz-Balart of Florida, was unwilling to go against Ryan before yesterday, and his support was cast as potential impetus for other Republicans to come aboard.
"We’ve been working on this for a long time," he told Politico. "Nothing has been able to get to the floor. This is a way to force a vote… to add fire. This issue can’t continue to linger."