By: Lindsey McPherson of Roll Call
House Republicans want to ensure any legislation replacing the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, would have the support of the majority of their conference before it goes to the floor.
That’s why Speaker Paul D. Ryan formed a task force featuring a cross section of Republicans who serve on committees with jurisdiction over immigration and border security to come up with a plan the conference can support.
The group is just one of several moving parts in the House effort to find a legislative solution to DACA, according to a GOP aide. Discussions with other lawmakers, including Democrats, are underway and will continue, the aide said.
Rank-and-file Republicans have insisted for years that border security is a crucial piece of any immigration compromise, and that aspect may prove easier for the GOP conference to solve than DACA. There are numerous bills they could use as a framework for that effort. Some Republicans may also seek changes to the legal immigration system.
Democrats, meanwhile, are pushing for any measure to include the language of the so-called DREAM Act, which would let certain undocumented immigrants obtain legal status and eventually citizenship. And they’re refusing to negotiate on President Donald Trump’s border wall, “sanctuary cities,” and more U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents.
When the House voted on a version of the DREAM Act in 2010, all the GOP task members serving at the time voted against it, except for Florida Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart. (Reps. Raúl R. Labrador of Idaho, Martha McSally of Arizona and Will Hurd of Texas were not in Congress at the time.)
Diaz-Balart was also the only task force member to vote against a 2014 measure to defund the DACA program; he was among 11 GOP “no” votes in the run-up to that year’s midterms.
McSally and Hurd were still not in Congress for that vote, but the House voted to defund DACA again in early 2015, this time as an amendment to a Department of Homeland Security appropriations bill. McSally joined Diaz-Balart and 24 other Republicans in voting “no,” while Hurd joined the remaining task force members in voting “yes.”
The task force members do not share identical views on immigration, so their road to compromise is a long one. Their individual stances and past positions may offer some insight.
Speaker Paul D. Ryan
Of all the task force members, Ryan’s immigration positions are probably the most varied.
While he voted against the DREAM Act in 2010 and has supported House efforts to defund DACA, he has also supported the concept of a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants and was a key House member involved in seeking support for a comprehensive immigration measure in 2013.
Since becoming speaker, the Wisconsin Republican has toned down his rhetoric on immigration, saying he supports providing undocumented immigrants with a way to “get right with the law.” Ryan also recently expressed support for moving to a skills-based merit system.
The speaker has said Congress needs to pass protections for DACA recipients but has not specified how, other than to say that it cannot be addressed without a solution for the larger border security problem.
Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif.
House majority leader
Like Ryan, the House’s No. 2 Republican has a mixed record on immigration.
McCarthy voted against the 2010 DREAM Act and for efforts to defund DACA. But in 2014, as majority whip, he expressed support for providing undocumented immigrants with a path to legal status and co-sponsored legislation that would grant young undocumented immigrants permanent residence if they enlisted in the military.
The California Republican has largely avoided talking about how to deal with the country’s undocumented population since he became majority leader. After all, it was his predecessor Eric Cantor’s support for a path to citizenship that contributed to his 2014 primary loss to hard-line conservative David Brat.
Rep. Robert W. Goodlatte, R-Va.
Chairman, Judiciary Committee
The former immigration lawyer may not share the hard-line views of other Republicans on his committee, but he’s no slouch on enforcement and has sponsored bills to aid the Trump agenda.
Goodlatte supports mandatory use of the E-Verify program and changes to the legal immigration system. And because Judiciary holds jurisdiction over immigration laws — meaning any deal to grant legal status to undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S as children, or Dreamers, must go through him — the Virginia Republican will carry serious weight on the task force.
Rep. Raúl R. Labrador, R-Idaho
Chairman, Judiciary Immigration and Border Security Subcommittee
Another former immigration lawyer, Labrador is one of the few House Freedom Caucus members who openly backs allowing undocumented immigrants to obtain some kind of legal status.
Labrador was a member of the House “Group of Eight,” a bipartisan group of lawmakers that tried in 2013 to develop an immigration overhaul but failed. (The measure by the Senate “Gang of Eight” cleared that chamber.)
Labrador later left the group, citing disputes over a previously agreed position that undocumented immigrants should be responsible for their own health care costs.
Now the Idaho Republican, who is running for governor, backs the House Republican piecemeal approach to immigration that the Group of Eight was supposed to counter. He has said recently that border security and enforcement measures, including funding Trump’s proposed wall, should be passed before any DACA fix.
Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Wis.
Chairman, Judiciary Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security and Investigations Subcommittee
Sensenbrenner has a long history on immigration. In 2005, as Judiciary chairman, the Wisconsin Republican sponsored a border enforcement bill that set off nationwide protests by immigrant communities.
Like the majority of Republicans, Sensenbrenner opposed the DACA program and has voted against the DREAM Act. He has said any compromise on DACA must “not give amnesty to illegal immigrants,” so he could be a tough voice in the room.
Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas
Chairman, Homeland Security Committee
If the final deal to offer legal protections to Dreamers includes a hefty border security package, it will likely be the brainchild of McCaul. The Texas Republican introduced a sweeping border security package this summer that authorized the hiring of additional Border Patrol agents and $10 billion for a border wall and surveillance technology.
McCaul is also a potential candidate to replace John F. Kelly — now the White House chief of staff — as the Homeland Security secretary, so his time on the task force may be brief.
Rep. Martha McSally, R-Ariz.
Chairwoman, Homeland Security Border and Maritime Security Subcommittee
McSally, a former Air Force fighter pilot and a member of the moderate Tuesday Group, is a unique voice on the task force because of her combined border security chops and support for young undocumented immigrants.
Days before Trump announced the end of the DACA program, the Arizona Republican led party members in asking Ryan to take up legislation, saying it “would be wrong to go back on our word and subject these individuals to deportation.”
Rep. Will Hurd, R-Texas
Hurd serves on the Homeland Security Border and Maritime Security Subcommittee.
While one of his first votes after joining Congress in 2015 was to defund DACA, the Texas Republican has since sponsored legislation to grant permanent residence to young undocumented immigrants who enlist in the military. He has also co-sponsored a bill to eliminate employment-based visa caps and to increase the caps on family-sponsored visas.
Hurd, whose 2018 re-election race is currently rated a Toss-up, according to Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales, has said he does not support Trump’s border wall proposal. That’s significant coming from a Republican whose Latino-majority district spans 40 percent of America’s border with Mexico.
As a counterproposal, Hurd introduced the so-called SMART Act to direct the Department of Homeland Security to use high-tech resources to secure the border, which Hurd says can be done at a fraction of the cost of building a wall.
Rep. John Carter, R-Texas
Chairman, Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee
Whatever border security package the task force comes up with, it’ll fall to Carter to find a way to pay for it. The former judge has already shown he can deliver the goods on hot-button issues — he ushered through the House $1.6 billion to begin building Trump’s wall — but he’s held his cards close on DACA.
In a statement following Trump’s DACA announcement, the Texas Republican only said he supported a solution that “provides for the pursuit of the American dream.” Like Labrador, he participated in the 2013 Group of Eight but left soon after negotiations collapsed.
Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Fla.
Diaz-Balart, an Appropriations Committee member, is one of the House GOP’s strongest proponents for overhauling the immigration system. He was the last remaining Republican member of the 2013 Group of Eight, after three of his colleagues left the group and effectively made it a “Group of Five.”
While the Florida Republican has never personally stopped pushing for an immigration overhaul, his GOP colleagues have shown no interest in reviving the failed 2013 effort. This Congress, he has co-sponsored the so-called Recognizing America’s Children Act, which is similar to the DREAM Act but has slightly different conditions under which young undocumented immigrants can obtain legal status and eventually citizenship.
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