House Republicans from swing districts have been among the most vocal supporters of Congressional action to enact a permanent solution for the beneficiaries of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. After months of inaction, 21 Republicans and 183 Democrats have signed a discharge petition — a rarely used procedure that would bypass the intransigent GOP leadership and allow floor votes on a few different possible plans. As of Wednesday afternoon, just a few more signatures are needed to make that happen.
Under President Obama’s 2012 DACA order, many young undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as kids were given temporary work authorization and deportation relief. Though hundreds of thousands have been approved for the program, the Trump administration announced in September that it would try to end it and leave it up to Congress (this has been put on hold due to court challenges). If Trump gets his way, more than 650,000 people could lose their scholarships, their ability to work, and their ability to legally remain in the country where they grew up.
Congress could take action at any time and rescue the DACA beneficiaries from limbo. With 218 signatures required, just 14 more signatures are needed to force a vote. Most or all of 10 Democrats left who have not signed expected to do so, at least 4 of those will have to come from Republicans.
At least 6 Republicans facing toss-up re-election races still have not signed to the discharge petition, despite previously saying they want action.
Rep. Barbara Comstock (R-VA)
Comstock is a member of the Tuesday Group, a caucus of House Republicans who consider themselves more moderate, and represents a Northern Virginia district in the suburbs of Washington, DC. In a September 5, 2017 statement, Comstock took a swipe at former President Barack Obama, saying his 2012 DACA order “overstepped his constitutional authority,” but vowed to support legislative action. “We know our immigration system is broken. The House and Senate along with the administration must now come together and find common ground that leads to bipartisan solutions that not only address the DACA issue, but also our critical border security and enforcement issues. Many will be tempted to devolve into partisan fights over this, but the President has provided a six month period to work together on these important issues.” More than six months later, she has yet to sign the discharge petition.
Rep. John Culberson (R-TX)
Culberson represents a district that includes parts of Houston and its suburbs. After meeting in Janaury with a group of students who were directly impacted by DACA, he praised them and expressed support for some sort of action. “The student stories were inspiring, and it’s a tremendous help to me to learn these situations first hand, so that we can keep the debate going and keep families together,” he said. “This is how laws get made – your elected officials meet with the people they represent, in order to better understand what is needed, and what they would like us to work on.” A week later, he wrote to constituents, “I’m committed to finding a bipartisan solution on DACA that will preserve respect for the rule of law, while being compassionate to those who were brought here as very young children.” He criticized Democrats for shutting down the government over the issue, noting that DACA did not expire until March 5. As of May 23, he still has not signed the discharge petition.
Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA)
Fitzpatrick, who represents Philadelphia suburbs, signed a letter in December calling for action on DACA before the end of the year. He is a co-sponsor of a bipartisan bill that would likely be one of the four options considered if the discharge petition succeeds. And in September of 2017, he endorsed that Congressional action on DACA, writing “Congress must reassert its authority and work to fix our immigration system by taking into account all aspects of the issue — from enacting ‘Kate’s Law’ to deport those who commit crimes while here illegally, to defunding sanctuary cities, to securing operational control of our borders, to treating with compassion those children who were brought here due to no fault of their own, in a manner that is becoming of American ideals and values.” He told a local public broadcasting station that he is willing to sign the petition but is holding off to give the same leaders who have blocked action so far ample time to schedule a debate. “Obviously the easiest way is for leadership to put it on the floor, so we’ll give them a chance to do that,” he said.
Rep. Jason Lewis (R-MN)
Lewis, whose district mostly includes the area south of the Twin Cities, calls himself an bipartisan “independent voice” who will stand up “to his Republican colleagues and leadership in both parties when necessary.” Last September, he released a statement calling DACA “untenable in its current form,” but saying: “It’s important that we debate comprehensive solutions in the next six months and I look forward to working with my colleagues in Congress to address the final status of DACA enrollees.” In January, he said, “I want a deal on DACA- there’s a sensible compromise to be reached to look after the young children who were brought here by their parents. But I want a deal that tackles root causes and stops this immigration crisis from reoccurring. That has to include enhanced security on our southern border as well as fixing the legal immigration system.”
Rep. Peter Roskam (R-IL)
Roskam represents Chicago’s western suburbs. In January, he said in a statement: “Working across the aisle, I believe that Congress can and will reach a bipartisan agreement on DACA that will protect Dreamers from deportation and provide much-needed increases in border security.” Facing pressure from a top donor to sign the discharge petition, Roskam told Politico this week, “I have been actively engaged with the community and various stakeholders and I will make a decision on the right course based on what’s in the best interest of these DREAMers and our nation’s border security. My hope is that Congress will reach a bipartisan agreement to protect children from deportation who were brought to the United States without documentation.” But so far, he has not yet made a decision to sign.
Rep. Keith Rothfus (R-PA)
Rothfus, who represents suburbs of Pittsburgh, said in a September press release that Obama’s DACA order was unconstitutional but that Congress could now reform immigration by securing our borders and establishing “a functioning entry and exit system.” He added: “We can then begin solving the challenges of our broken immigration system, including addressing the status of children who were brought here through no fault of their own by their parents.”
If these 6 signed and just 8 of the 10 remaining Democrats, the House could consider a DACA bill to send to the Senate.