public-policy article

Last Chance for Dream Act Before November

May 11, 2018

By Marie Camino

Human service organizations have a vested interest in a practical approach to the contentious issue of immigration policy. What better way to ensure that everyone can contribute to our communities in meaningful ways than to lift up the heart and soul of the American dream – immigrants? Immigration is wind in our country’s sails, and if we do not provide a reasonable path to citizenship, that wind ceases, depriving our communities of the labor, skills, and ideas that push us forward. Since we know readers follow our updates on federal immigration policy closely, here are our latest insights on what is happening on The Hill.


In March, moderate Republican Reps. Jeff Denham (R-CA) and Will Hurd (R-TX), together with members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus introduced H.R. Res. 774, a resolution that utilizes what’s known as “Queen of the Hill,” a procedure that would bring four separate immigration bills to the Floor for consideration. The four bills would be debated and voted on, and the bill with the most votes would be adopted as long as it wins a majority of the House. Of the four bills considered, the USA Act of 2018 and the Dream Act would provide a permanent legal solution for Dreamers. The USA Act, however, includes harmful “border security” measures. The third bill, Securing America’s Future Act, would provide only temporary legal status for Dreamers and would significantly reduce legal immigration. The final bill will be determined by Speaker Ryan (R-WI).

Discharge petition – what the h*ck is that?!

Frustrated with the continued lack of movement on the issue, moderate Republicans are utilizing the “discharge rule,” which forces a measure to the floor for consideration, even if the committee of referral does not report it and Speaker Ryan does not schedule it. This bold move by Republican moderates is likely an effort to ensure their more moderate districts don’t abandon them as we head toward November. The discharge petition will determine whether the Queen of the Hill resolution will be taken up and the four bills will be debated. There are currently reports leader McCarthy is advising members of his party not to sign on to the petition to discharge.

The rules surrounding a discharge petition are rather complicated. The only time when a motion to discharge can be made is a second or fourth Monday of a month when the House is in session, and a motion cannot be made during the last six days of a session. Further, the petition to discharge must reach 218 signatures (all 193 Democrats and 25 Republicans) seven session days prior to the motion being made. Therefore, there are only two days on which the motion can be made before this Congress ends: June 25 or July 23. The petition must have enough signatures by June 11 or July 10 to make the dates for the motion.

However, unclear scheduling could impact this timeline. Although unlikely, Speaker Ryan could cancel the House session altogether on the key dates for the motion.

If the petition gets to 218 before the key dates and the motion is made, the order in which the bills will be debated is:

  • Dream Act, H.R. 3440
  • Securing America’s Future Act, H.R. 4760
  • Slot for Speaker Ryan’s legislation
  • USA Act, H.R. 4796

How Does Our Coalition Respond?

The National Human Services Assembly supports a clean Dream Act, the legislative solution that does not use Dreamers as a bargaining chip for harmful immigration measures. However, we have to be prepared for a future in which the Dream Act is scrapped for a solution that leverages border wall funding for a pathway to citizenship. Specifically, advocates worry about the potential for Republicans to attach $25 billion in border wall funding to the USA Act, which would make it a great candidate for a Presidential signature.

In the event that the Dream Act does not win, what, then is the best course of action?  Is any amount of money an acceptable tradeoff to provide a path to citizenship for Dreamers and other undocumented residents, or does this open the floodgates and encourage Republicans to attach more and more border wall funding to future legislation?

These are the issues that human service organizations will have to grapple with in the coming months, and as more information comes to light, we will keep our network informed. At this time, The National Assembly supports any movement that would result in the consideration of the four pieces of legislation on their merits, and we will continue to monitor the petition as the calendar deadlines approach.