California Reps. Jeff Denham and David Valadao co-sponsored Democrats' legislative fix to address expiring protections for young immigrants, but they don't plan to join the effort to force a vote on it.
House Democrats announced Sept. 25 that they would try to force a vote on Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard's version of the Dream Act, which is backed by every House Democrat and four Republicans, through a procedural move called a discharge petition. To pull the bill from committee and force a vote on the House floor, Democrats need signatures on the petition from 218 House members.
The House and Senate have five months to address the legal status of "Dreamers," people brought into the country illegally as children, before the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which protects them from deportation and lets them work legally, ends in March.
Valadao of Hanford said Democrats should focus on getting a majority of the House to sign onto their bill as co-sponsors before they try to force a vote.
"They've got to focus on getting over 218 co-sponsors before they have any more debate on anything. They are sitting [under] 200," Valadao said.
As of Wednesday, all 194 Democrats and one Republican, Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Colo.), had signed the petition. The last signer came on board Sept. 28.
House leaders control which bills come to the floor for a vote and when, and members are often reluctant to force leaders' hands. That's one reason discharge petitions are rarely successful.
"It is a political game. Democrats when they were in charge, they weren't signing on to Republican discharge petitions. If you want to legislate, then legislate," Denham of Turlock said. "On this issue especially, you've got Republicans and Democrats trying to come together and pass a real solution provide certainty to Dreamers."
Denham hinted that a bipartisan group of lawmakers involved in the various proposed legislative fixes are working on a compromise that would address a few immigration issues, and that something could be announced soon.
"I'm encouraged by where we're at right now, but playing more political games, playing partisan games isn't going to get us there," he said. "We're having meetings almost every day now. We're negotiating right now, I can say that."
Denham and Valadao both represent Central Valley districts with large Latino populations that are among Democrats' top targets in 2018. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has criticized them for not signing the petition.