public-policy article

Immigration Turmoil: Take Action Now

June 15, 2018

By Marie Camino and Brandon Toth (Updated 6/18/18)

For those of us who have been following movement on immigration, the development of the discharge petition by moderate republicans in the House gave the Dream Act a new glimmer of hope. At the very least, representatives would have had a chance to debate, amend, and vote on the common-sense legislation before this election season.

In recent days, however, House leadership has taken a different approach—a vote on only two bills, the Securing America’s Future Act and a new option, coined the “Ryan Bill.” Neither bill creates a positive outcome for Dreamers and would create negative outcomes with respect to our country’s overall immigration policy. The Securing America’s Future Act, or the “Goodlatte Bill,” is a hardline immigration reform that includes no pathway to citizenship, threatens family reunification, funds an impractical border wall, and more. Overall, it is estimated that the bill would lead to a 40% cut in legal immigration.

The Ryan Bill

Paul Ryan’s purported “compromise” bill, the Border Security and Immigration Reform Act of 2018 is an interparty compromise between moderate republicans and members of the Freedom Caucus and would undermine our county’s immigrants in a multitude of ways.

The draft legislation closely follows the Administration’s Four Pillars. The President initially claimed that he would not sign the bill should it land on his desk, but White House officials later backtracked stating that he supports both the Goodlatte and Ryan framework..

This comes on the heels of the now well-known zero-tolerance policy implemented by Attorney General Jeff Sessions that calls on prosecutors to charge as many illegal entry offenses as possible and is causing migrant children to be separated from their parents at the border. Journalists recently ventured into Casa Padre in Brownsville, TX, a facility that currently houses roughly 1,500 migrant youth. The report raised serious concerns about the lack of space and capacity in the building, which was once a Wal-Mart. These worries are compounded by the rapidly growing number of detainees “housed” at the facility under the zero-tolerance policy, a population that doubled from April to May of this year.

Some are touting the Ryan bill because it supposedly ends this cruel practice of family separation; however, this is misleading. The legislation attempts to curb family separation by changing the policy with respect to the Flores Settlement. This would effectively permit children and families to be detained together, but indefinitely.

The bill also includes a confusing, convoluted pathway to citizenship based on an untested point system for Dreamers that would cover even fewer people than DACA. This pathway to citizenship is completely contingent on the allocation of $23 billion towards a border wall. What’s more, if DHS uses the border money for other purposes, the path to citizenship for Dreamers will be outright eliminated.

Additionally, it increases the standard of proof needed to apply for asylum, which is estimated to significantly reduce the number of successful asylum applicants. The Ryan bill also eliminates the diversity visa program and reduces family reunification by disqualifying married adult children and siblings of citizens. U.S. citizen family members who have been in line for over a decade would no longer be able to stay in line for a green card, effectively limiting legal family reunification.

So What Will Really Happen Next Week?

Initially, the discharge petition made it seem as though moderate republicans were eager to reach a bipartisan solution on immigration and a practical solution for Dreamers. However, their willingness to accept a vote on two harmful, partisan bills calls this into question. The most likely apparent reason for the discharge petition in the first place was to generate a campaign talking point that may help shield them from electoral challenges this fall.

The Goodlatte bill has been on the table for quite some time, but hasn’t garnered a majority of support. Given this weak position, the Goodlatte bill likely has little chance of making it out of the House.

Since the potential protections afforded to Dreamers in the Ryan bill are worse than a Senate bill that failed with a vote of only 39 Senators, House democrats will inevitably vote no on the Ryan bill. In all likelihood, if Ryan believes he has support from enough Republicans, he may bring the bills to the floor and they could pass on party lines. Neither bill, however, is likely to garner the 60 votes needed to pass the Senate, so at best the outcome of this immigration turmoil will be no more than a campaign talking point for House republicans this fall.

Regardless, this overt attempt to harm immigrants and their families cannot be ignored. Human service organizations recognize that immigrants are the wind in our countries sails. It is inhumane to rip migrant families apart and damage their prospects of becoming legal citizens. Likewise, Dreamers contribute labor, skills, and ideas that help push us forward as a nation. Dreamers deserve more than to be used as bargaining chips.

For more information check out our talking points.

Take action by calling your Member of Congress at (202) 224-3121 and tell them that you oppose both the Goodlatte bill and the Ryan bill.