PD Editorial: It’s time for a House vote on the Dreamers

Moderate Republicans apparently have reached the same conclusion that the majority of Americans did months ago - it's time to end the destructive, politically charged impasse over the fate of undocumented immigrant children - the Dreamers.

In a rare public confrontation with House leadership, a group of GOP lawmakers is on the verge of forcing a long overdue vote on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program. They've initiated a parliamentary procedure known as a discharge petition that would bypass the committee process and push four competing bills on immigration to the floor for debate over the objections of Speaker Paul Ryan.

The future of DACA - and its nearly 800,000 recipients who were brought into the country as children by their parents - has been uncertain for months. Last fall, President Donald Trump announced he would end the Obama-era program unless Congress approved a long-term immigration plan within six months. Congress didn't meet Trump's deadline. Fortunately, federal courts have put the administration's plan to end DACA on hold.

DACA recipients, meanwhile, wait. The Senate has tried and failed to forge a compromise, but Ryan repeatedly has refused to put bills up for a vote. The dysfunction is so bad that conservatives in the House tanked an unrelated farm bill this month in retaliation for inaction on a hardline immigration bill they favor.

Ryan appears determined not to risk upsetting the GOP base by passing a compromise immigration bill ahead of this fall's midterm elections. Moderates, meanwhile, worry they'll face a reckoning from voters fed up with Trump's behavior and with congressional inaction on an array of issues, including DACA.

The San Joaquin Valley's Jeff Denham is among those leading the discharge petition, and two other California Republicans - David Valadao and Steve Knight - have signed on. They're close to getting the minimum 218 signatures - 25 Republicans if all 193 Democrats sign - needed to force a vote.

Denham says DACA recipients - almost a third of whom live in California - shouldn't have to live in fear that they'll be deported. “America has never punished children for the actions of their parents, and we shouldn't start now,” he said. “These children and young adults know no other country as home.”

The rest of California's delegation, both Republicans and Democrats, should sign the discharge petition. Numerous polls show the majority of Americans favor protections against deportation of the Dreamers.

Elected officials have long acted as if their priority is ensuring their chances of getting re-elected, but the current assemblage on Capitol Hill seems to have made it their sole cause. DACA was a policy that worked well, and their acquiescence to Trump's demand that it be pushed into a larger debate on immigration and a border wall was unnecessary and divisive.

There's no guarantee that a floor vote would wind up helping DACA recipients. One of the four bills in play is a far-right effort to punish immigrants. But perhaps compromise and compassion might prevail. Dreamers have worked hard to make the most of their opportunities in America. Lawmakers should work much harder to ensure those efforts aren't wasted.

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