Republican Lawmakers Express Frustration at Colleagues’ Decisions to Maintain Status Quo of Failed and Broken Immigration System
On June 26th, a minority of Republicans joined every Democrat in the House to vote against the Border Security and Immigration Reform Act of 2018. This bill had President Trump's support and would have adequately secured the border, ended family separations at the border, and provided 1.8 million Dreamers with conditional paths to earn legal status and eventually citizenship.
In a press conference following the vote on the bill which failed 121-301, Republican representatives, who co-authored and supported it, expressed frustration at their colleagues’ decisions to maintain the status quo of the United States’ failed and broken immigration system.
The Republican lawmakers highlighted the irony in the fact that although the bill included provisions to adequately address the immigration issues of which lawmakers have been calling for solutions, many of them still voted against it.
“How ironic, that if you only care about the Dreamers…this bill gave 100% on that issue. If you only cared about border security, this bill gave 100% of what has been asked for those who wanted border security, and if you’re concerned…about the separation of minors from their parents at the border, this bill has a permanent legislative halt to that, and yet, as you saw today, a minority of Republicans joined all of the Democrats to vote against fixing those three key issues… It’s sad that this bill that does three fundamental things that many would again for whatever reasons, would vote against what they have themselves have claimed they’ve wanted to vote on for such a long time,” said Representative Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL)
So why did every single Democrat, most if not all of which have been calling for a legislative solution to protect Dreamers, vote against this bill even though it would have done exactly that? Representative Carlos Curbelo (R-FL) pointed out that the bill contained more than what Democrats have been asking for in immigration reform and suggested that their decisions to vote against the bill were purely political in nature and that many of them even told him privately that they thought the bill was actually good legislation.
“A lot of members of this House who for years have been talking about Dreamers and about helping Dreamers, decided today that they prefer the politics, the petty politics of immigration, instead of the solutions for immigration… The framework of this bill was negotiated by Kevin MCcarthy, Dick Durbin, Steny Hoyer, and other members of both parties…We didn’t have a solution and a path to citizenship to 700,000 young immigrants brought to our country as children, not for 1 million, not for 1.5 million, but almost 2 million. That’s the number our Democratic colleagues have been asking for…I think if the policy is good, they should give it serious consideration. And I know the policy is good because again, all of us here have plenty of Democratic friends, we’re guilty of that, and they told us that they thought this was good policy but that the politics made it impossible for them to support it."
So what are Democrats’ political interests in obstructing immigration legislation like this that would have provided DACA, family separation, and border security solutions? Perhaps Democrats in Congress have reached the point where they will obstruct any legislation authored by Republicans under the Trump presidency and a Republican majority in Congress, even if they think it is good policy that they know the majority of American people support. Many of them are against securing the border and some even want to abolish ICE, but considering that their party has failed to pass any legislation to protect Dreamers, including when they held the Presidency and a majority in the Senate and House in 2009-2010, there may be a question as to whether certain Democrats in Washington want any kind of solution to our nation’s immigration problems at all.
At the same time, Republicans do control a majority of the seats in the House, so those who have been campaigning on and advocating for securing the border that decided to vote against this bill are inhibiting the increased national security that they have been promising to provide to their constituents. When an overwhelming majority of Americans and even Republicans support providing Dreamers with a conditional pathway to earn their legal status, why are certain Republican lawmakers refusing to vote for any bill that does that, no matter how well it secures the border? Maybe it’s because they knew even if they passed the bill in the House, Democrats in the Senate would have prevented its passage, but it appears certain Republicans in Washington would rather have the issue of border security to campaign on instead of providing a legislative solution to secure the border.
“The American people lost today, when people can’t get past their own issues and try and compromise. Ronald Reagan compromised many many times with Tip O’Neill; we should be able to learn from what they were able to accomplish. This was a great bill…it was an elegant compromise… going forward, we’re going to continue to work, we’re going to continue to fight, and we’re going to try to find a way forward, but I’m convinced that some people do not want a way forward, and that’s troubling,” said John Katko (R-NY).
With a significant number of Democrat and Republican lawmakers appearing to have no interest in legislating the solutions to the immigration issues that Americans have been demanding, it has become clear that immigration reform will most likely need to garner bi-partisan support in Congress in order to pass.
“What was obvious today is that Republicans cannot pass a 2018 Republican bill, just as Democrats couldn’t pass one in 2010…The Democrats took up the clean DREAM Act in 2010 and even with 260 Democrats, they were still short, 38 Democrats voted against that. They had 59 Democrats in the Senate that didn’t take it up. I think it’s important to recognize that it’s going to take a bipartisan bill that both addresses border security as well as a permanent fix for the Dreamers,” said Representative Jeff Denham (R-CA).
Although immigration reform failed to pass at this time, Republican law makers remain hopeful that they can reach a bi-partisan solution.
“Despite this setback, we will continue working with Republicans, with Democrats, with anyone who is sincerely interested in solving this problem. This is not only an immigration problem. If our country’s politics are going to start healing we need to solve the immigration issue because it’s an issue that is tearing this country apart every day,” said Curbelo.
The Republican representatives also expressed an increased sense of urgency to provide a solution for DACA with the upcoming Federal July 17th case over its legality threatening to abruptly end DACA protections for its beneficiaries when it goes to the Supreme Court.
“I do think that the DACA issue is going to eventually wind up into the US Supreme court, and I think their decision is going to be that the President of the US cannot make immigration policy without the Congress…That could provide a catalyst that would force Congress to act on this issue,” said Representative Mike Coffman (R-CO).
With a Supreme Court hearing that will most likely declare DACA and its benefits unconstitutional coming in the near future, a lack of legislation to permanently end the separations at the border, and an inadequately secured United States border, Congress needs to do its job and pass the immigration legislation that the majority of the American people, including the President, have been demanding. Now that they have 300 pages of quality immigration reform legislation to start with, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle should work together to make it law before the Supreme Court rules on DACA and potentially removes the current protections for Dreamers.