The House is whipping itself closer to a forced vote on immigration better than Paul Ryan and Kevin McCarthy have been able to recently. A discharge petition has nearly gathered the critical number of signatures to make it happen and leadership is scrambling for them to hold off.
As of Thursday morning, 212 Democratic and Republican moderates had signed the petition to force the House to vote on an immigration bill that includes a pathway to citizenship for the so-called Dreamers, immigrants who were brought to the U.S. illegally as children.
Immigration hardliners find the “special pathway” untenable, putting Republican leadership in a tight spot between the two factions in the Party.
“I don’t think we can go with that,” said Freedom Caucus member Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) when asked about the prospect of citizenship for Dreamers. “What we have to go for is something that’s consistent with the mandate of the  election, and I don’t think that was consistent with the mandate of the election.”
It’s true Donald Trump ran in 2016 on a very hardline immigration stance, particularly regarding border security and building a “big, beautiful” wall, but he’s since said he was open to a plan to legalize 1.8 million Dreamers and allow them to become citizens. A comment that mortified Republicans at the bipartisan roundtable.
Moderates in the GOP caucus claim they’re not asking for special treatment for Dreamers.
Rep. Jeff Denham (R-Calif.), one petition leader, said under their proposals, Dreamers would have to go through 12 years of intensive scrutiny to qualify for citizenship. First, a Dreamer would have to apply and qualify for a five-year temporary visa with a background check, as well of proof of employment, college enrollment or military service.
Then, the person would have to renew that status for another five years before applying for a two-year legal permanent residence. Only after that could they try for citizenship.
They must use a different dictionary because it certainly sounds like a special, i.e. unique, path to legal status and citizenship as compared to those follow the legal steps to citizenship or come to the U.S. illegally as adults.
One deal that could potentially happen is allowing a vote on an immigration bill from conservatives that does not include a pathway to citizenship as well as the moderate’s bill that does.
However, this plan could also be a nightmare for conservative Republicans as their bill would likely fail and the bill moderates and Democrats are pushing would likely pass given its bipartisan support.
Speaker Ryan has called for a special meeting to address the petition and avert a showdown over immigration in the House, but not until the discharge petition deadline of June 7. However, that might be too little too late as some holdouts have said they will sign the petition if an agreement isn’t made before members head home during the Memorial Day recess.