House Rejects Hard-Right Immigration Bill, Baring GOP Divide

Leon Blevins, of El Paso, Texas., wearing an Uncle Sam costume, demonstrates before U.S. mayors give a press conference outside the holding facility for immigrant children in Tornillo, Texas, near the Mexican border, Thursday, June 21, 2018.  (AP Photo/Andres Leighton)

WASHINGTON (CN) – The House of Representatives on Thursday struck down a conservative Republican immigration bill, as GOP leadership delayed consideration of its preferred piece of legislation until Friday.

The conservative proposal, backed by Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., called for broad changes to both the legal immigration system and to how the government treats people who are in the country illegally.

The bill included funding for President Donald Trump’s proposed border wall and eliminated the diversity visa lottery program along with most categories of family-sponsored immigration visas.

It also provided an extension to current recipients of the Obama administration’s DACA program, giving protections from deportation to certain people in the country illegally who were brought to the United States as children.

In addition, the legislation would have raised the standard for people seeking asylum at the border and took aim at so-called sanctuary jurisdictions that refuse to comply with federal immigration authorities.

Unlike a more moderate plan billed by GOP leadership as a compromise proposal, the plan did nothing to address the separation of children from their parents at the southern border.

The bill failed in a 193-231 vote on Thursday afternoon.

Forty-one Republicans voted against the bill, joining 190 Democrats. All votes in favor of the bill came from Republicans.

Democrats and moderate members of the Republican caucus have opposed the bill, calling it too extreme and not responsive to the current uproar caused by the Trump administration’s practice of separating children from their parents at the border.

Before the vote on the bill, Rep. Norma Torres, D-Calif., spoke emotionally of her experience immigrating to the United States at the age of five, encouraging her colleagues to oppose the legislation.

“I was welcomed here in a loving home,” Torres said on the House floor. “I was not put in freezing cell.”

The Republicans who supported the plan, however, said the bill would be a step forward, noting its extension of the DACA program and its adherence to Trump’s immigration priorities.

“Congress has a unique opportunity to act before the country ends up with another large population who crossed the border illegally as children,” Goodlatte said before the vote. “Let’s take this historic moment to come together and support vital legislation that provides common-sense, reasonable solutions.”

The House was also scheduled to vote on a leadership-backed bill that it billed as a compromise between the conservative and more moderate wings of the Republican party. However, amid concerns defections in Republican ranks could sink both immigration efforts, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., told reporters they planned to push off voting on the legislation until Friday.

The leadership proposal would have given a path for lawful permanent status to people eligible for the DACA program and includes reforms aimed at stopping the family separation crisis by changing current rules to allow the federal government to hold children along with their parents.

The bill includes funding for the border wall, though less than the Goodlatte bill, and eliminates certain categories of visas, instead reallocating them to merit-based programs.

After emerging from Speaker of the House Paul Ryan’s office in the Capitol, Rep. Carlos Curbelo, R-Fla., promised Republicans would not give up easily on passing an immigration proposal.

“We have all our options on the table,” Curbelo told reporters. “We agreed to this negotiation, we were invited to the table, we sat at the table for hours, we negotiated the best bill possible based on the people who were around the table. And if this doesn’t work out, we’re not going to give up on immigration.”

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