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The House Will Vote on Bills to Protect the Dreamers. No One Knows What Happens Next

4 minute read

The House of Representatives is moving closer to holding a vote on legislation to protect undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children, but there’s still no clear path to reach the desk of President Donald Trump and no sense of what he’d do if it did.

After weeks of lobbying, a group of moderate House Republicans has gotten Speaker Paul Ryan to commit to holding votes on several bills that would extend protection to the so-called Dreamers.

The Trump Administration has attempted to end an Obama-era program that allowed them to avoid deportation — a matter currently tied up in court — and the President himself had once said he’d like to see a bill to extend that protection.

But Trump has rejected several efforts in Congress to address the Dreamers, leaving Republican leaders in the House and Senate to mostly avoid bringing up anything for a vote.

Frustrated, moderate Republicans — led by Reps. Carlos Curbelo of Florida, Will Hurd of Texas, and Jeff Denham of California — attempted an end run around the Speaker, unveiling what is known as a “discharge petition”: an arcane House measure would bring the bills to the floor for a vote without Ryan’s involvement.

The petition would have forced a vote on four pieces of immigration legislation, including one with Democratic support that simply provided Dreamers with a path to citizenship.

“It’s time for Congress to do its job and have the debate that it has avoided for years,” Denham wrote in an op-ed for the Los Angeles Times in May.

On Tuesday, Ryan relented, saying he would schedule a vote after all. But what happens next is still unclear to both supporters and opponents of the legislation.

Next week, Ryan’s office announced, the House would vote on two bills: a hardline conservative piece of legislation sponsored by Rep. Bob Goodlatte of Virginia, which House conservatives have championed for months, and a currently-gestating moderate proposal that would provide a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers in exchange for stricter border security.

(The Goodlatte bill, meanwhile, protects Dreamers only temporarily, but keeps legal immigrants from sponsoring their family members to enter the U.S. Even if a conservative measure like the Goodlatte bill could pass the House, it stands no chance of survival in the more moderate Senate.)

Republicans have emphasized that the bill they pass must fulfill the “four pillars” of immigration reform that Trump outlined in his State of the Union address in January: creating a path to citizenship for Dreamers, tightening border security, getting rid of the so-called “diversity visa lottery” (which gives precedence to immigrants with low rates of migration to the U.S.), and curtailing family-based immigration.

“This is an effort to bring our conference together on immigration,” Ryan told reporters on Wednesday. “What happened was our members got together, spoke with one another, and compromised with each other, so that we can find a way forward without exercising a discharge petition, which would mean we would never make a law.”

He continued: “Now what we have is an actual chance at making law and solving this problem. We’ve been working hand in glove with the administration on this to make sure we’re bringing a bill that represents the president’s four pillars.”

News of the impending vote came shortly after it was reported that the Trump administration was planning to detain unaccompanied underage immigrants in “tent cities” on military bases in Texas near the U.S.-Mexico border. NBC News reported on Wednesday that the moderate immigration proposal to be introduced next week would include a provision that would prevent immigrant children from being separated from their parents at the border.

It is far from certain that either of the bills under consideration could pass the House.

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