Politics

House Rejects GOP’s ‘Compromise’ Immigration Bill — Overwhelmingly

Republicans to turn attention to narrow bill addressing family separations

Speaker Paul D. Ryan has reiterated his support for a Republican compromise immigration bill. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

House Republicans’ legislative attempt to find consensus within their own party on the divisive issue of immigration failed on the floor Wednesday, with the chamber overwhelmingly rejecting their so-called compromise bill, 121-301. 

The outcome was predicted Tuesday as a late amendment that was negotiated over the weekend did not convince enough hesitant members to support the bill. The amendment was left out of the final bill.

A last-minute public endorsement from President Donald Trump on Wednesday morning also failed to sway members, many of whom had complained about him sending mixed messages on the bill. 

Trump’s tweet Wednesday captured his earlier private views that he supports the bill as well as his previous tweets that Republicans were wasting their time on legislation that can’t pass the Senate, putting a different spin on the latter. 

“HOUSE REPUBLICANS SHOULD PASS THE STRONG BUT FAIR IMMIGRATION BILL, KNOWN AS GOODLATTE II, IN THEIR AFTERNOON VOTE TODAY, EVEN THOUGH THE DEMS WON’T LET IT PASS IN THE SENATE,” he tweeted in all caps. “PASSAGE WILL SHOW THAT WE WANT STRONG BORDERS & SECURITY WHILE THE DEMS WANT OPEN BORDERS = CRIME. WIN!”

The compromise bill was negotiated by members representing all sides of the various factions in the GOP Conference and Republican leaders in recent weeks. But some of the negotiators had maintained concerns throughout the process.

Ultimately, the legislation was only officially authored by House Judiciary Chairman Robert W. Goodlatte, Homeland Security Chairman Michael McCaul and moderate GOP Reps. Jeff Denham of California and Carlos Curbelo of Florida. 

Many conservatives who voted against the compromise bill had supported another GOP measure the House had rejected last week, 193-231.

Republicans have referred to that bill, which was also authored by Goodlatte and McCaul, as “Goodlatte 1” and the compromise measure as “Goodlatte 2.” 

The bills were somewhat similar in that they both included several border security and interior enforcement provisions. Goodlatte 1 was billed as the more conservative product because it included more interior enforcement, but it only authorized funding for a wall along the southern border, whereas Goodlatte 2 provided advanced appropriations.

Goodlatte 1 was certainly more conservative in its approach to addressing the young undocumented immigrant population known as “Dreamers,” many of whom have temporary relief from deportation through the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. 

It would have provided DACA recipients the opportunity to obtain an indefinitely renewable three-year non-immigrant legal status.

Goodlatte 2 included the same provision but made it last for six years and expanded its eligibility beyond current DACA recipients to those who would qualify but had not applied. 

Under the compromise bill,Dreamers could also apply for a new merit-based visa and eventually citizenship, something some conservatives felt amounted to amnesty.

Some conservatives who were comfortable with the visa idea took issue with the bill because moderates objected to the inclusion of language to block Dreamers who become citizens from sponsoring visas for their parents who brought them to the country illegally.

Goodlatte 2 would have cut visas U.S. citizens can use to sponsor married children and visas from the diversity lottery program, reallocating them to the new merit-based program for Dreamers and other young immigrants. The measure would also boost employment-based visas by cutting the ones U.S. citizens can use to sponsor adult siblings, but it would make no changes to other family-based visa categories.

The compromise bill also included language intended to prevent children from being separated from their parents when detained at the border. 

It would have required the Department of Homeland Security to house families together while the parents are going through criminal proceedings for the misdemeanor of first-time illegal border crossing, instead of in criminal custody, and would have eliminated the 20-day cap on administrative custody for accompanied children. 

House Republicans are already working on crafting a more narrow bill that is likely to include that same provision. It’s unclear yet what else that measure will include to address the family separation issue and whether it will address other issues such as asylum and immigration judges. 

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