The House voted Tuesday to protect so-called Dreamers and establish a path to citizenship for more than two million undocumented immigrants.
The Democratic-led chamber passed the Dream and Promise Act in a largely party line 237-187 vote, with seven Republicans joining all Democrats in voting for the bill.
Supporters in the gallery broke out into cheers of “Sí se puede!” when the tally reached the necessary simple majority of 218 in favor.
“That was good,” said Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.), walking off the House floor.
The bill would grant permanent residency with a path to citizenship to more than two million undocumented immigrants across three categories: It would permanently protect from deportation Dreamers – undocumented immigrants brought to the country as children – as well as certain recipients of the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) and Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) programs.
TPS and DED are programs that grant work permits and protect from deportation citizens of certain countries that have undergone natural or man-made disasters.
The bill’s supporters cheered its passage, as immigration advocates have been trying to pass elements of the bill for the better part of two decades.
Still, it’s unlikely the bill will see a vote in the GOP-led Senate, as the White House announced Monday it “strongly opposes” the measure.
The White House Office of Management and Budget argued the bill “would incentivize and reward illegal immigration while ignoring and undermining key Administration immigration objectives and policy priorities, such as protecting our communities and defending our borders.”
Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) Chairman Rep. Joaquín Castro (D-Texas) said that even without a Senate vote, the bill will serve a political purpose as Democrats push back on immigration moves by the Trump administration.
“I mean, the Senate is tough. But we’re going to do everything we can to push them to move on it. And even if they don’t move on it immediately, it holds it in place for larger negotiations for comprehensive immigration reform,” Castro said.
“At worst, this is a ready made piece for further negotiation on a larger immigration package,” he added.
But Republicans, even those supportive of the bill, resent the way Democratic leadership pushed forward the proposal.
“I voted for every version of this in the past, so I’ll vote for this. But the sad part is that they did it in a way to guarantee that it doesn’t become law. And that’s a real shame, because you could get bipartisan support for something on this. But they went out of their way to make sure that it doesn’t get bipartisan support, therefore it has no chance of even getting negotiated,” said Rep. Mario Díaz-Balart (R-Fla.), an ardent supporter of comprehensive immigration reform.
Rep. Dan NewhouseDaniel (Dan) Milton NewhouseThirty-four GOP members buck Trump on disaster bill Cybersecurity Advisory Committee will strengthen national security through a stronger public-private partnership Hillicon Valley — Presented by NCTA — HUD hits Facebook with discrimination charges | Agency also investigating Twitter, Google | Twitter may label Trump tweets that violate rules | Apple moves raise competition concerns MORE, a Washington Republican who said he was on the fence shortly before the vote, said the bill could help jump start the immigration debate.
“There’s a lot of people that want to advance the issue, and we’ve not been able to do that. And even though this bill is not what we would have written — it’s got some things that people are not liking — I think there’s there’s going to be a few people that probably support it, different Republicans, given that you would sort of pressure the Senate to take it on,” said Newhouse, who supported the push for a bipartisan agreement in 2017.
Unlike with other recent immigration reform efforts, proponents of the bill made a conscious decision not to tie in enhanced immigration enforcement or border security.
That decision revealed some rifts among immigration reform proponents, with those on the left demanding fewer limitations for beneficiaries based on alleged criminal behavior and those on the right demanding more enforcement and border security measures to attract Republican votes.
Despite friction among activists, Democrats walked out of the committee process with cohesive caucus support for the bill.
“The language is reflective of where our caucus is. And I think it’s definitely a more refined version of what we’ve had in the past. We’re being sensitive to members’ needs and that’s reflected in the bill,” said Rep. Pete AguilarPeter (Pete) Ray AguilarPro-business Dem group sees boost in fundraising Left flexes muscle in immigration talks Immigration groups press for pairing Dreamer benefits with border security MORE (D-Calif.), who was the chief Democratic negotiator in the last bipartisan immigration reform push.
Democrats were mostly concerned that Republicans would successfully introduce a poison pill in the legislation with a parliamentary measure known as a motion to recommit, where the opposition is allowed to propose a last-minute amendment.
Democrats discussed in their caucus conference Tuesday various options on what amendments Republicans could propose, based on their proposals in committee, and planned several quick-reaction scenarios for the floor vote.