By No Labels
Thirty-five members of the House Problem Solvers Caucus, including both Republicans and Democrats, sent a letter to Speaker Paul Ryan this week asking that the House address immigration reform.
“We believe immigration reform should be bipartisan and that only an open process allowing for the best ideas from both sides will demonstrate to the American public that we can find common ground,” they wrote.
This letter was a substantial action for the Problem Solvers and they are directly challenging congressional leadership to allow the open immigration debate on the House floor that the American people want and deserve. It also comes as the fate of immigration reform is uncertain. Here’s what you need to know
For months now, the immigration debate has been tied to a budget bill, with many Democrats refusing to consider a spending plan unless immigration was addressed. The failure of all sides to agree on immigration policy stalled budget negotiations last month, which led to a government shutdown.
Now, Republicans and Democrats in the Senate have agreed on a two-year budget proposal that lifts caps on domestic discretionary and military spending but leaves out immigration reform. Both Speaker Ryan and President Trump support the deal. If it passes this week as expected, immigration reform will have to be considered as a separate piece of legislation, which may reduce the sense of urgency lawmakers feel to address it.
The fate of roughly 800,000 “Dreamers,” who were brought to this country as children and have been protected by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA), is at stake. The administration is ending the DACA program, meaning participants could face deportation come March. Many lawmakers in both parties, as well as the president, are on the record saying they want to stop that from happening and provide a path to citizenship.
Enhanced border security—including the border wall endorsed by the president—is also part of the debate. So is the philosophy that will govern how the U.S. grants visas in years ahead, with Republicans hoping to end the visa lottery program in favor of a merit-based system.
The Problem Solvers recently advanced an immigration proposal that would protect Dreamers, allocate funds for border security and end the visa lottery program. But they are not alone, with two bipartisan Senate plans having been recently proposed. In its letter to Speaker Ryan, the Caucus suggested that all “serious and substantive” proposals be considered.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has promised to allow a full immigration debate on the Senate floor, possibly as early as next week. However, in an unusual move, he is not starting with one single proposal as a base and then allowing amendments. Instead, he is starting with a blank canvas, allowing senators to vote on initiatives and build the bill from scratch. What emerges remains to be seen.
How the House will approach immigration is less clear. Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi spoke for a record eight hours on the House floor Wednesday about the need to protect Dreamers and calling on Ryan to promise an immigration debate. How Ryan chooses to address immigration remains to be seen.