Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers was one of 41 Republicans to vote against a GOP immigration reform bill Thursday, ending an apparent week of discord within the party on how to address the swelling issue of how to handle enforcement of federal law at the border.
In a statement explaining her vote on the legislation, McMorris Rodgers said she continues to prefer a so-called “consensus bill” that is scheduled for a vote next week. That bill, which has the same sponsor and has been crafted exclusively by Republicans, faces an uncertain future following a week of fast-moving discussions on policy hastened by outrage over the separation of children from parents entering the country illegally at the southern border. The GOP postponed a vote on the bill twice in 24 hours on Thursday, and a vote on the legislation has now been pushed to the final week of June.
“This bill will fully secure the border, stop illegal immigration, close enforcement loopholes, end the threat of amnesty and provide long-term certainty for DACA recipients,” McMorris Rodgers said in a statement, referring to the Obama-era program that delayed deportation proceedings for the children of people who entered the country illegally. “It also contains stronger solutions to keep families together and stop children from being separated from their parents at the border.”
Hard-line Republicans continue to counter the claim that the bill “ends the threat of amnesty,” arguing that extension of protection for “Dreamers” for six-year, renewable terms and offers of a path to citizenship amounted to forgiveness of illegal entry into the country. Meanwhile, immigration advocacy groups, including the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project, are also calling for a “no” vote on the second piece of legislation, saying it doesn’t do enough to protect that group.
“It doesn’t have a very clear path to citizenship,” said Jorge Baron, executive director of the Seattle-based nonprofit. “There’s a potential path, but there’s no guaranteed path.”
Baron said his group supports the DREAM Act, a bipartisan bill that has collected dust for years in both chambers of Congress, despite its provisions attracting wide support in polls of American voters. The Northwest Immigrant Rights Project, which provides legal defense in deportation hearings, assistance with visa applications and other services, joined with Washington state in filing a lawsuit against the Trump administration Thursday for its “zero-tolerance” policy at the U.S. border.
Republicans have even seen defections from their own party on the second piece of legislation, known as the Border Security and Immigration Reform Act of 2018. Rep. Will Hurd, a Texas Republican who represents a district that includes an 800-mile swath of the border between El Paso and San Antonio, said Thursday he would not be voting for the bill.
“I have long advocated for securing our nation’s borders and providing a permanent legislative fix for DACA recipients, but this proposal does not accomplish either goal,” said Hurd in a statement.
McMorris Rodgers’ statement about her vote Thursday displays a continued desire to appease warring factions of the Republican Party, said Cornell Clayton, director of the Thomas S. Foley Institute of Public Policy and Public Service at Washington State University. McMorris Rodgers is appealing both to moderates, by highlighting what she called a fix for the Dreamers, and the additional money for the border wall.
“I think there’s so much hypocrisy around what happened this week, in terms of whether or not it could be done with an executive order or not,” Clayton said, referring to McMorris Rodgers’ statement Tuesday that she accepted Trump’s call for Congress to act, then praising him for taking his own action on Thursday.
“The Republican line on that was, it can’t be done with an executive order – until it was,” he said. “I think that was McMorris Rodgers and others simply trying not to run afoul of the president, but at the same time wanted their problem solved.”
McMorris’ Rodgers office said she believed the policy could and should have been ended through an executive order, however Congress still needed to act to make that change permanent.
McMorris Rodgers has been criticized by her presumptive Democratic opponent in the November midterm elections, Lisa Brown, for her suggestions Trump listened to Congressional Republicans when he approved an executive order that provides a temporary suspension of the separation policy at the border. Clayton said the issue is likely to continue to rear its head throughout the summer.
“For Republicans, this is just such a divisive issue for them,” Clayton said. “And if they go hard-line, in the midterm elections – if they’re out there saying we’ve got to have this ‘zero-tolerance’ policy – Democrats are going to be running these ads showing these kids getting ripped away from their families.”
Rep. Dan Newhouse, facing his own Democratic challenger in a Central Washington district that depends heavily on migrant agriculture workers, also voted against the more hard-line bill.
In addition to the money for the border wall, the Republican legislation would also call for additional surveillance resources in 17 sectors along both the northern and southern borders of the United States. Among the areas that would receive “increased flight hours” for surveillance flights and more automated detection devices is the Spokane sector. The Border Patrol recently reopened its office in Spokane and hired additional agents.
Editor’s note: This story was updated Friday, June 22, 2018, to include a response to charges Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers and other Republicans had inconsistent positions on executive action regarding the border separation policy.