New York Times

House Leaders Delay Vote on Legislation to Protect Young Immigrants

House Leaders Delay Vote on Legislation to Protect Young Immigrants

Speaker Paul D. Ryan, speaking at a news conference at the Capitol on Thursday, declined to speculate on the House’s next move if both immigration bills ultimately fail. “We will cross that bridge if we get to it,” he said.CreditTom Brenner/The New York Times

WASHINGTON — House Republican leaders on Thursday delayed a vote on a broad immigration bill that would provide a path to citizenship for young, unauthorized immigrants while keeping migrant families together at the border. The measure had appeared destined to fail as Republicans remained at odds over immigration.

The bill, a compromise between moderate and conservative Republicans, had been set for a vote early Thursday evening, but the vote will now take place on Friday, according to a Republican aide. The House rejected a hard-line immigration bill in a vote on Thursday afternoon, as had been expected.

The compromise bill is facing trouble with conservatives, who would be taking a political risk by supporting a bill that has been derided as offering “amnesty” to young undocumented immigrants. With its chances appearing dim, Speaker Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin declined to speculate on the House’s next move. Republicans in the Senate are backing narrow legislation to ensure that children are not taken from their parents at the border.

“We will cross that bridge if we get to it,” Mr. Ryan said at a news conference.

To some extent, President Trump’s retreat on Wednesday on separating families at the border appeared to lessen the pressure on Congress to quickly pass a legislative fix. But in the House, the vote on the compromise bill follows a long-running tussle that can be traced back to a different action on immigration by Mr. Trump, which put at risk the young immigrants known as Dreamers, who were brought to the country illegally as children.

Mr. Trump moved last year to end an Obama-era program, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, that shielded from deportation those young immigrants, known as Dreamers. Moderate Republicans have pushed for the House to take action to protect those immigrants, an effort that led to the compromise bill with conservatives.

Yet on Thursday, Mr. Trump may have helped seal the bill’s defeat, venting his frustration on Twitter that even if the House passed a broad immigration bill, it would require Democratic support to clear the Senate. In effect, the president suggested that voting for the bill might be a pointless exercise — not exactly a persuasive message for conservatives on the fence about whether to support a bill that could rile up their right flank.

The compromise bill came together as House Republican leaders tried to defuse a rebellion from moderates seeking action to protect the Dreamers. The moderates used a parliamentary tactic known as a discharge petition in an attempt to force a series of votes on immigration, including on a bipartisan bill that would have paired a path to citizenship for Dreamers with strengthened border security. The rebellious moderates ultimately fell two signatures short of what they needed to force votes this month.

The compromise measure is a wide-ranging bill that would make significant changes to the immigration system. It would provide billions of dollars for Mr. Trump’s promised wall along the southwest border with Mexico while limiting family-based immigration and toughening rules for asylum seekers.

It would offer a six-year renewable legal status to Dreamers, who would be eligible for a new visa program that would offer green cards based on factors like education, employment and English proficiency. In turn, they could become citizens.

To respond to children being separated from their parents under the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” policy for crossing the border illegally, House Republicans added language to the bill intended to keep families together. Before Mr. Trump signed his executive order on Wednesday, Mr. Ryan promoted the compromise bill as providing a fix to the crisis, saying it would keep families together in the custody of the Department of Homeland Security as legal proceedings played out.

But the bill appeared headed toward defeat before the leadership decided to push back the vote. Democrats have condemned the measure, which generally aligns with Mr. Trump’s stated requirements for any immigration overhaul, and critics on the right have derided it as “amnesty.”

Heritage Action for America, the political arm of the conservative Heritage Foundation, warned, “Passing amnesty for millions of illegal immigrants right before a midterm election would be a grave political miscalculation.”

In an ominous sign for the bill’s chances, Representative Will Hurd, a Republican who represents a sprawling border district in Texas and faces a competitive election in November, said on Thursday that he would oppose the bill.

“I have long advocated for securing our nation’s borders and providing a permanent legislative fix for DACA recipients, but this proposal does not accomplish either goal,” Mr. Hurd said.

The House went through with a planned vote on Thursday on the hard-line immigration bill known as the Goodlatte bill, for its chief sponsor, Representative Robert W. Goodlatte, Republican of Virginia and the chairman of the Judiciary Committee. Conservatives had sought a vote on the measure.

The bill failed in a 193-to-231 vote.

The Goodlatte bill would have sharply reduced legal immigration while beefing up border security, cracking down on so-called sanctuary cities and requiring employers to use the E-Verify system to confirm that they are hiring legal workers. DACA recipients would have been able to receive a three-year renewable legal status.

Follow Thomas Kaplan and Nicholas Fandos on Twitter: @thomaskaplan and @npfandos.

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