Originally published by The Hill
Two Texas Democrats who resisted signing a petition to force a vote on a series of immigration bills will now join most Democrats and two dozen Republicans in supporting the motion, bringing the number of its signatories to 215.
With Reps. Filemon Vela and Vicente González's signatures, the petition would be just three short of the 218 needed to force votes on legislation that would offer shelter to so-called Dreamers that came to the U.S. illegally as children.
Vela and González withheld their signatures from the measure because of the possibility that it could end in legislation that funds a border wall, which they oppose.
"I don't like doing it, but I was with [Brownsville Bishop Daniel E. Flores] yesterday for like an hour and a half and I had meetings with Dreamers," Vela told The Hill. "That's pretty much it."
"I will vote for a clean Dream Act, but not for any measure that includes border wall funding. Republican moderates claim they have the votes to move their discharge petition forward. … Let’s see it,” Vela added in a statement.
Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas) is now the only Democrat not supporting the discharge petition.
“I need a commitment from Democratic leadership saying that they will not support a border wall in exchange for Dreamers. The construction of a physical wall is an expensive and inefficient use of our taxpayers’ hard-earned dollars," Cuellar said in an email to The Hill.
"My support for Dreamers and a DACA fix has not wavered, but there are more cost-efficient ways of protecting our borders by increasing technology and employing additional border security personnel. As I’ve said in the past, I cannot stand behind building a wall — a 14th century solution to a 21st century problem,” he added.
If Cuellar signs on, supporters would need two more Republicans to join the effort to force the votes.
Reps. Carlos Curbelo (Fla.) and Jeff Denham (Calif.), the petition's top GOP promoters, had said earlier that there were enough votes to go forward, with or without the three Texas Democrats.
Discharge petitions, which force a vote without the consent of leadership, are rarely successful, however. They are also seen as a challenge to the majority party brass.
This discharge petition was started by a group of Republicans who wanted a House vote on legislation to replace the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which President Trump rescinded in September.
If successful, the full House would vote on four different immigration bills, under a procedure known as Queen of the Hill.
Denham introduced the Queen of the Hill procedure, which would allow votes on a hard-line bill introduced by Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.); the Dream Act, which would grant a special path to citizenship for about 1.8 million Dreamers; the USA Act, which would pair the Dream Act's path to citizenship with billions in funding for border security; and a bill of Speaker Paul Ryan's (R-Wis.) choosing.
Whichever bill obtains the most votes past the 50 percent threshold would then be sent to the Senate.
The bill most favored to succeed is the USA Act, a collaboration between Rep. Will Hurd (R-Texas) and Pete Aguilar (D-Calif.). Its border security elements were part of the motivation for Vela and González's opposition, however, as there's debate over whether they constitute a border wall. The Texas Democrats also oppose the Goodlatte bill and the Ryan proposal is likely to include several provisions unpalatable to Democrats.
But the USA Act's proponents and several key Democrats, including House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), have insisted its border security provisions do not amount to a wall.
While Vela and González are unlikely to support the USA Act, they have pledged to vote for the Dream Act if the Queen of The Hill procedure goes forward.
“By signing this discharge petition, I do so with the intent of giving 800,000 young people — young Americans — peace of mind and the ability to remain in the only country they call home,” González said.
“Let me be clear, I will not accept a DACA fix that includes funding for a border wall. It’s unfortunate that we are at this nexus, but the ball is now in the Republicans’ court," he said. "And as such, I ask them: ‘What will be your next move?’ ”
Vela, González and Cuellar represent Texas's three southernmost districts, where President Trump's proposed border wall is widely opposed. In addition to the large Mexican-American community that views the wall as an affront, landowners along the border resent the possibility of the federal government taking over their lands for wall construction. The districts also host some of the country's largest ports of entry, and are dependent on cross-border trade and integration with cities across the Rio Grande.
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