House Republicans think they’ve found a compromise in an immigration battle that led to an uprising from their more moderate members. A petition they launched to force a vote on protecting certain undocumented immigrants from deportation came close to getting the required amount of signatures.
House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) said the House will vote next week on two immigration bills that propose some kind of legal protections for people brought to the country illegally as children, or “dreamers.” But have Republicans really found a compromise? These bills are extremely unlikely to become law, and they might not even be supported by dreamers themselves.
Here’s why you should be very skeptical Congress will do anything concrete on immigration:
1. The “compromises” Ryan is working on seem very conservative: There are two proposed bills that could get a vote next week. One is a straight-up conservative bill that wouldn’t offer citizenship to dreamers but a path to legal status for some of them. The other, which is still being debated behind closed doors, would offer an eventual path to citizenship, reports The Washington Post’s Mike DeBonis. But both appear to come at a cost for moderates: cuts to legal immigration, such as scaling back citizens sponsoring family members and canceling a visa lottery.
It’s not clear how any of this is a compromise, said Alex Nowrasteh, an immigration policy analyst with the libertarian Cato Institute. Moderate House Republicans are not okay with those kinds of cuts to legal immigration. Actually, most mainstream Republicans don’t like the idea. Neither does the immigrant community that certain vulnerable House Republicans are feeling pressure from ahead of November’s elections.
“Immigrants support immigration, polls show,” Nowrasteh said. “So it’s unclear why legalization for a handful of dreamers in exchange for making sure they can’t bring members of their family over anymore is a good deal from their perspective.”
2. It’d be a surprise if either of these bills gets through both chambers of Congress: President Trump ended the Obama-era protections for dreamers in the fall and has said he wants cuts to legal immigration in exchange for signing a bill that again protects dreamers. But it’s unlikely any bill Trump supports could make it to the president’s desk.
The conservative bill probably doesn’t have support beyond its conservative faction, said Molly Reynolds, a congressional analyst at the Brookings Institution. It’s unclear what the other bill looks like, but any proposed cuts to legal immigration will disqualify it for a majority of House lawmakers, Republican or Democrat.
If something actually did pass the House, it would be dead on arrival in the Senate. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) basically gave up on immigration after four versions of bills to protect dreamers failed in February, shortly after he had to live through a government shutdown centered on dreamers’ fate. Now he’s concerned with protecting his slim Senate majority, and the divisive issue of immigration is possibly the last thing he wants to touch.
Plus, if most Republicans don’t support Trump’s proposed cuts to legal immigration, Democrats sure as heck don’t.
3. Politics: This whole immigration push in the House, from both the moderate and conservative factions, is such a logjam that it’s fair to wonder whether anyone genuinely thought their idea could get a majority of support from Congress. “I’m not sure whether anyone has really expected anything to become law out of this whole exercise,” Reynolds said.
The alternative is that lawmakers are pushing their own immigration proposals on leadership, making headlines for the dramatic way they go about it and getting some credit back home for trying — without being on the hook for anything that actually happens.
It’s a cynical way to look at this immigration debate, but Congress hasn’t given us much reason to think otherwise. It hasn’t been in any rush to solve dreamers’ legal limbo since their fate got tied up in the courts this year. By the time those legal questions get solved, a number of the lawmakers in the thick of this — including members of leadership like Ryan — won’t have a job in Congress anymore.