An upstart petition drive by House Republicans to force a vote on “Dreamer” immigration proposals is roiling the party as midterm elections loom.
Two Californians are taking prominent and opposing roles in the internal battle — one that’s revealing a deepening rift over how to handle President Donald Trump’s hostility toward immigrants.
At the root of the conflict are different interpretations about immigration in the two congressmen’s districts. And like the Californians, those differences have GOP politicians in other states also rolling the dice on what positions will matter most to their ability to keep seats in the November midterm elections.
On one side is GOP Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy of Bakersfield, Calif., who came out in opposition to the petition drive. With 218 signatures, a petition can force House leadership to allow members to vote on bills even if leadership has resisted allowing a procedure. According to POLITICO, McCarthy told GOP colleagues that he was worried that the petition drive and a vote could upset the GOP base and lead to the party losing control of the House in November. McCarthy is in line to become the next House speaker if the House if the GOP retains control. Trump won McCarthy’s district by 22 points.
On the other side is Rep. Jeff Denham of Turlock, Calif., who announced on Thursday that Republicans are trying to avert a clash over the petition. He said Republicans want to come up with a deal in 24 hours that would lead to votes on various pieces of legislation related to Dreamers, young people who arrived here with parents, undocumented, and grew up here while parents were working at jobs and sinking roots. Denham won his last election with 52 percent of the vote. But Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton won the district by 3 percent.
But there’s more to the story.
Earlier this year, the Center for Public Integrity reported from McCarthy’s district on constituents and Dreamer supporters who were upset with McCarthy for failing to use his power to convince Republicans and Trump to legalize Dreamers. McCarthy’s district, along with Denham’s, is home to tens of thousands of Dreamers. One young man the Center interviewed is a star agribusiness college student—and his undocumented father has worked for the same farm employer for more than 10 years.
Only Congress can reform the current immigration system to open a path for Dreamers to earn legal status. The Dreamer nickname they go by is derived from the acronym of failed proposals to legalize them that go back to 2001.