Our D.C. Bureau Immigration issue ‘not going away’

WASHINGTON — House Democrats and moderate Republicans may not be able to vote on immigration reform bills this month, but that doesn’t mean they’ll soften their stance on President Trump’s get-tough border policies.

Rep. Rosa DeLauro on Wednesday stood with 11 of her colleagues on Capitol Hill condemning Trump’s “zero-tolerance policy,” which subjects anyone illegally crossing the U.S.-Mexican border to federal prosecution. DeLauro, D-Conn., called the policy “child abuse” because it has separated parents from children with little prospect for reunion.

DeLauro introduced a resolution in the House last week to roll back the policy, which Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced last month.

“This is not an issue of left or right - this is an issue of right or wrong,” said DeLauro, a veteran House liberal Democrat.

Democratic and moderate Republican House members had been pushing to garner 218 signatures for a vote on four bills addressing the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program — DACA. But the lawmakers found themselves two signatures shy of meeting the threshold and the effort collapsed for now.

House Republicans will instead vote next week on two immigration bills.

One, which House Speaker Paul Ryan’s office announced Tuesday night, was drafted by conservative House leaders and Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-Va.. It parallels Trump’s call for a border wall and beefed-up enforcement. A second bill would reflect a more moderate approach, but its exact contents remain unsettled.

It is unclear whether either bill could command a majority in the House, regardless of party.

Democrats and moderate Republicans could relaunch their “discharge petition” and acquire the required number of signatures, but their DACA bills wouldn’t hit the House floor until late July.

DeLauro said she and her colleagues “have to look at it and see what’s coming up” before deciding which way to go.

“I think people will take a look at it and see if it meets any of their criteria for going forward, and I will do the same,” she said.

DeLauro and several other lawmakers booked trips to visit the areas along the border in Texas and southern California within the next week to scope out the enforcement of immigration policies, she added.

“This is not going away,” she said in an interview. “This has got to be a national outcry.”

Rep. Elizabeth Esty, D-Conn., echoed DeLauro’s call for reformed immigration policies, saying the government has a “humanitarian duty” to immigrant families seeking asylum.

She said lawmakers should work together on an immigration reform bill that creates a pathway for citizenship for “those who want to work hard and do the right thing.”

“My heart breaks at the thought of these children waking up each morning not knowing when they will be with their parents again,” Esty said.