Once Again, The House Fails On Immigration Reform

The House of Representatives has left town after once again failing to pass an immigration reform bill,, thus likely ensuring that nothing will be passed before the midterms.

Once again, the House of Representatives has failed to pass a proposed immigration reform plan that would have dealt with issues that have been in the headlines recently, including the status of beneficiaries of the Deferred Action For Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and the family separation crisis still being dealt with in the area around the border with Mexico:

WASHINGTON — The House resoundingly rejected a far-reaching immigration overhaul on Wednesday, despite a last-minute plea from President Trump, as internal divisions in the Republican ranks continued to hobble legislative efforts to protect the young unauthorized immigrants known as Dreamers.

The 121-to-301 vote was an embarrassment both to Mr. Trump and to House Republican leaders, who had spent weeks trying to bring together conservatives and Republicans with moderate views on immigration — and ended up with little to show for the effort.

In the end, nearly as many Republicans voted against the bill, 112, as for it, 121.

The defeat provided the latest display of the Republican Party’s disunity in Congress on immigration. And it highlighted the continuing inability of both the House and the Senate to resolve the fate of the Dreamers, who were brought to the country illegally as children. Many of those undocumented immigrants have been shielded from deportation under an Obama-era program, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, which Mr. Trump moved last year to end.

Republicans in the House are now likely to turn their focus to narrower legislation that would seek to keep migrant families together at the border, an issue that senators are also looking to address. But with the Fourth of July approaching and lawmakers close to returning home for a recess, it was not clear how quickly a narrower measure might move forward.

The House is scheduled to finish its work for the week on Thursday and not return until July 10. A Republican aide said the chamber would not take action on the family separation issue until after the recess.

The frustrations over immigration in Congress are matched by the confusion in the Trump administration. A federal judge in California issued a nationwide injunction on Tuesday stopping the administration from separating children from their parents at the border and ordering that all families already separated be reunited within 30 days.

The Justice Department responded by putting pressure on lawmakers, saying in a statement that the judge’s order “makes it even more imperative that Congress finally act to give federal law enforcement the ability to simultaneously enforce the law and keep families together.”

“Without this action by Congress, lawlessness at the border will continue,” the department said.

But the House vote demonstrated the difficulty of developing any kind of broad immigration legislation that can clear even a single chamber of Congress.

CNN’s Lauren Fox has more on this latest failure:

Not even a crisis on the southern border could force Congress to act on immigration.

Lawmakers left Washington this week without passing a single bill to address what has been a months-long saga for parents and children who have been separated despite calls from all sides of the political spectrum to act.

“I think we are proving to ourselves that Republicans cannot pass an immigration bill,” one Republican House member told CNN about the week.

In the House, Republicans tried and failed to pass a comprehensive immigration bill that addressed family separations as well as provided $25 billion in border security and a path to citizenship for recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. The bill earned only 121 votes, far fewer than a more conservative proposal that had been voted on earlier in June (that bill also failed).

“Disappointment is no longer a word I utilize here in Washington, DC,” said Rep. Tom Reed, a Republican from New York who voted for the compromise.

The plan had always been to pivot to a more narrow family separation bill if a compromise couldn’t be found, but even that has proven difficult. Multiple GOP aides say they have waited for direction from the administration on what the President wants from Congress. After two roller coaster weeks over whether Trump would support the compromise GOP immigration bill, House Republican aides say guidance from the administration is essential to passing a narrow bill and that leaders are not interested in rushing legislation if it won’t have Trump’s blessing in the end.


The lack of action on immigration is hardly surprising in Congress nor is it new. Immigration galvanizes both the left and the right’s base, a reality that makes it harder to find a compromise in the middle.

“That makes it harder to solve on both sides,” said Rep. Steve Stivers, the chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee.

The bill that the House rejected was, in its basics, a slightly watered down version of the hardline immigration bill crafted by House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte that was rejected last week, however, it still went far beyond what likely would have been able to pass both the House and the Senate and make it to the President’s desk. Like the Goodlatte bill, this bill would have provided protection to the DACA beneficiaries and allegedly fixed the defects in the law that led to the family separation policy. In addition, it would have also fundamentally altered the legal immigration system by severely limited so-called “chain migration” that allows legal residents to sponsor family members for legal residence in the United States. It also would have ended the diversity visa lottery that helps to admit people from nations that are not presently significant sources of immigration to the United States. By some estimates, this would have cut legal immigration to the United States by up to one-half within a ten year period. Even with these additions, though, the bill was anathema to conservatives due to the fact that it would have allowed for a path to citizenship for DACA beneficiaries and other Dreamers. In other words, the bill was far too restrictive for any Democrats to support, and far too liberal for conservative Republicans such as the so-called “Freedom Caucus” to support.

In addition to all of this, the efforts by the House leadership to get a bill passed were not at all helped by the President of the United States. While he apparently spent the week trying to cajole votes from recalcitrant Congressman, it was just a week ago that he went on a Twitter tirade in which he basically told Congress to abandon its effort to pass an immigration bill before the midterms. With that floating out there, it’s no wonder that the mixed signals from the White House on whether or not the President even supported the bill that the House was considering played a role in the fact that wavering Congressmen ended up voting against the package. This is is especially true given the fact that many of these Members of Congress are still facing primary challenges and any miscalculation on an issue like immigration could open them up to attacks from the right or cause Republican voters to stay home on Election Day as a form of punishment. Taking all of this together, it’s clear that this latest effort at immigration reform was dead long before the House began voting on Wednesday.

At this point, the prospects that any bill at all will be passed this year is exceedingly low. The failure of even this more moderate bill in the House makes it next to impossible that anything else will pass that body before Election Day, or even that House leadership would allow another bill to be put before that body. Additionally, as we saw earlier this year the Senate has also proven unable to get even the most moderate and modest form of immigration reform passed. As a result, we’re headed to another election with the immigration issue unresolved while DACA beneficiaries and families separated at the border remain apart. It appears that the Republicans on Capitol Hill are perfectly fine with that, what’s not clear is what impact that will have on Election Day.

FILED UNDER: Borders and Immigration, Congress, Donald Trump, Politicians, US Politics, ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook


  1. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    But they did investigate Benghazi for 2-1/2 years…so they are probably worn out.

  2. gVOR08 says:

    So, to the surprise of pretty much no one, the right wing Republicans have been unable to reach a compromise with the right wing nut job Republicans. And reaching out for a few Dem votes continues to be out of the question because then governance might happen and we can’t have that.

  3. Kathy says:

    Every time I read or hear about any kind of immigration initiative in Congress, I’m reminded of the story of The Boy Who Cried “Wolf!”

  4. al Ameda says:

    GIVEN that Republicans will not approve any bill that doesn’t give them (the ‘Freedom’ Caucus in particular) everything they want, I’m of the opinion that no bill is preferable to a Democratic Party agreed-to appeasement bill.

  5. teve tory says:


    So, to the surprise of pretty much no one, the right wing Republicans have been unable to reach a compromise with the right wing nut job Republicans. And reaching out for a few Dem votes continues to be out of the question because then governance might happen and we can’t have that.

    In a story about how the KKK, instead of shooting black people, splintered into two factions who mostly shoot at each other, I read that extremist groups are usually self-limiting, because their inability to compromise winds up tearing them apart. The House Freedom Caucus, in the end, will wind up getting almost nothing, instead of the 75% of what they wanted if they’d compromised on the other 25%.

  6. Barry says:

    @teve tory: “The House Freedom Caucus, in the end, will wind up getting almost nothing, instead of the 75% of what they wanted if they’d compromised on the other 25%.”

    I fear that they’ll get 100% of what they want, because what they want is mass deportations.

  7. Gustopher says:

    @Barry: They want a lot more than just mass deportations.

    Mass deportations is just their preferred solution to immigration, but there are a whole host of other issues — economy, education, energy, and that’s just the ‘e’s!

    I think they will get about 35% of what they want, rather than 75% or even 50% that they might get if they would learn to compromise. It’s going to be ugly, especially with the courts being radicalized, but nowhere near as ugly as it would be if they were competent.

  8. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Gustopher: But 100% fidelity (what they are asking for in terms of content and action of the law) on 35% of the agenda is better to them than 50 or 60% fidelity on 100% of the agenda. And I don’t think that they would get even 50% fidelity in compromise legislation, probably closer to 25%. So, considering that mass deportation is what has been promised by the executive order and mass deportation is what they probably most want–even more than jobs and prosperity–there’s no incentive for compromise and ending up getting nothing–dreamers eventually getting citizenship.

    Moreover, this is what 52% (the portion of the voter pool that voted against Hillary) voted for by voting against a “flawed candidate” and/or for MAGA. Until 5 or so percent of these nimrods get tired of all the winning–and I really don’t see that on the horizon (but I hope I’m wrong)–we can expect the clown show to continue. I realize that Doug is limited by the fact that this is a news site, so he has to work with what he’s got, but Republicans not being able to accomplish what they don’t want to accomplish is about as newsworthy as “dog bites weiner” (the sausage, not the dong).

  9. gVOR08 says:

    @teve tory:

    The House Freedom Caucus, in the end, will wind up getting almost nothing

    Unless…unless Trumpsky and the Billionaire Boys Club succeed in implimenting the oligarchic autocracy they seem to want. Then they’ll be happy to buy the loyalty of the Freedom (sic) Caucus with a few crumbs. Hey, their daughters can fly to Paris for abortions, and they already sent overseas most of the jobs they used to need illegal immigrants for, and nobody’s going to enforce ECheck for their gardners.

  10. teve tory says:

    Hey, their daughters can fly to Paris for abortions, and they already sent overseas most of the jobs they used to need illegal immigrants for, and nobody’s going to enforce ECheck for their gardners.

    ECheck is where the xenophobic trumper dumbasses should realize they’re getting played by the billionaires. Aggressively implement and police ECheck and the whole illegal immigration problem quickly goes away. So why isn’t trump doing this? Because he wants their votes, he doesn’t want to actually stop it. The rich make too much money off illegals to actually stop it. People who believe Trump always get played.