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House fails to pass immigration bill despite support from Amodei

Humberto Sanchez
Humberto Sanchez

For the second time in two weeks, Rep. Mark Amodei voted for what he saw as imperfect immigration legislation that failed to win a majority of votes in the House, as the GOP refocuses on how to pass a measure to keep parents that cross the border illegally from being separated from their children.

“I supported this bill because I refused to let perfect be the enemy of good,” Amodei, a Republican, said in a release. “When it comes to immigration, I will always choose policy reforms that will improve border security, reprioritize the allocation of immigrant visas, and prevent future illegal immigration over continued inaction.”

The Republican-drafted bill—which failed 301-121, with no Democratic support—was a compromise between some moderates, conservatives, House GOP leadership and the White House. The bill would have overturned existing law preventing undocumented children from being held for more than 20 days in order to keep families together and would have legalized undocumented young people known as DREAMers and given them a path to citizenship.

The vote tally was worse than the 231 to 193 failed vote on a more conservative bill the House considered last week, which Amodei also supported.

After striking out twice on legislative fixes, House Republican leaders now hope to come up with a more narrow measure that would address the family separation issue, but not before talking with the White House and the GOP-run Senate.

“I don’t think we’re going to do anything other than what we’re asked to do,” said Rep. Tom Cole, a Republican from Oklahoma who is a confidant of Speaker Paul Ryan. “It has to be a pretty clear signal from the administration that ‘this is what we would like you to do’.”

Cole also said that the White House is still studying a ruling issued Wednesday by a federal judge in San Diego that gave the administration 30 days to reunite the children that have been separated from their families.

But it remains to be seen if GOP moderates and conservatives can find enough common ground on the issue to pass a bill without Democratic support.

Making the job more difficult, President Donald Trump has sent mixed signals to his fellow Republicans. He urged them to pass the bill Wednesday, but had previously said that Republicans shouldn’t waste their time given that anything the House passed, would likely not pass the Senate where Democratic support would be needed to overcome a filibuster.

Amodei has been a vocal advocate for Congress to act on immigration and felt he had to support the measure Wednesday, just as he did last week when he voted for the more conservative proposal that also failed to pass the House last week. 

“While I would have preferred more of my colleagues to join those of us who confirmed our dissatisfaction with the status quo by voting in favor of this bill, I am pleased that we were finally able to bring this issue to the Floor,” said Amodei, who was first elected in 2010. “For the first time since coming to Congress, I now have a work product to defend when I go home to my constituents. We’ve certainly got some things to balance out, but the solutions are out there, and I will continue to advocate in favor of these common-sense reforms.”

He has been critical of the House GOP leadership over the process, because of the inability to offer amendments to the proposals. He said he preferred the process known as a discharge petition, which would have forced votes on four immigration bills.

Under that process, 25 Republicans would have had to sign on, along with all the House Democrats, in order to reach a majority of 218 members, which would have forced votes on the four bills. Amodei was one of the Republicans who signed the petition. But House GOP leaders, who argued that the petition usurped the power of the majority, managed to keep the last two Republican members from signing the petition by negotiating directly with some of the GOP moderates, many of whom represent districts with immigrant communities and see a vote on the issue helpful to their re-election efforts.

He did not rule out signing on to another discharge petition effort, which some GOP moderates are considering.

The House action also follows an outcry over the separation of families. The issue began in April when the White House announced that it would begin to prosecute all people who entered the country illegally, including those seeking asylum, in what the administration called a “zero tolerance” policy.

The administration argued it had to separate children from their parents when the parents are charged with a crime and detained because of a decades-old court settlement, known as the Flores that bars the government from jailing migrant children for more than 20 days.

Prior to the change, asylum-seekers who crossed the border illegally were released and told to come back for their case to be decided. Trump has criticized the practice as “catch and release” and promised to end it.

Along with detaining families together, legalizing status of DREAMers and providing a path to citizenship through a merit-based point system, it also would have provided $23.4 billion over almost a decade for the southern border wall and other security, and made it harder for a future Congress to rescind the money by making the new merit-based visa system for DACA recipients contingent on Congress providing the funding.


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