A child wearing a cap walks with a backpack and a stuffed animal at the US-Mexico border

New Energy for DACA Solution in the House

Sana Rizvi
May 11, 2018

After the Senate’s failure to pass DACA legislation, a small group of moderate Republican House members facing tough reelections are pushing to bring an immigration vote to the House floor. One such member is California Representative Jeff Denham (CA- 10), who has invoked an obscure House rule called the “Queen of the Hill” to vote on DACA legislation. Representative Denham has a total of 247 cosponsors on this resolution, which includes 195 Democrats and 52 Republicans (Find the complete list of cosponsors here.) Since the rule has greater support than the 218 needed, it was up to Speaker Paul Ryan to move the rule forward.

Due to Speaker Ryan’s failure to act, however, moderate Republicans have begun a discharge petition, which is a way to get the rule to the floor without the Speaker’s approval. The discharge petition will need 218 votes to be filed, requiring signatures from the entire House Democratic caucus and at least 25 Republicans. The current petition has 18 Republicans signed on and the Democratic caucus plans sign on when the Republican votes are secured, to ensure 218 votes.

This “Queen of the Hill” rule would trigger votes on four DACA bills. The bill with the most votes after the 218 majority will pass the House and continue to the Senate for consideration. Representative Denham’s office has reported that bills for consideration are the Dream Act (H.R. 3440), the Uniting and Securing America Act (USA Act, H.R. 4796), and Rep. Goodlatte’s Securing America’s Future Act (H.R. 4760). While both the Dream Act and USA Act offer DACA recipients protection from deportation and a pathway to citizenship, Rep. Goodlatte’s bill aims to cut legal immigration and provides no pathway to citizenship for DACA recipients. Although ordering of the votes for the Queen of the Hill proposal is up to Representative Denham, he left a fourth slot for any bill of Speaker Paul Ryan’s choosing. By offering Speaker Ryan the fourth slot, Rep. Denham has provided the Speaker with an opportunity to weigh in on the vote.

While all eyes are on the House for action around “Queen of the Hill,” the courts have also had significant movement around DACA these past few months. On May 1, 2018, a federal judge’s order prevented the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) from arbitrarily cancelling a young man’s DACA status after the government failed to prove that he had committed a crime. Another blow to the administration’s attempt to end of DACA came when a federal judge ordered the government to continue the DACA program and begin accepting new applications for the first time in several months. This has not gone into effect yet, however, as the judge gave the Trump administration 90 days to provide a compelling reason for shutting down the DACA program.

To complicate matters further, most recently, seven states led by Texas have brought a class action suit against the federal government for failing to end the DACA program completely. As these cases become more entangled and national injunctions begin to contradict one another, pressure for resolution will increase as well as the likelihood of the Supreme Court’s involvement.

Ultimately the DACA issue must be resolved with a legislative fix from Congress which could include a pathway to citizenship for DACA recipients, bringing resolution to this issue. NETWORK will continue to monitor this process and call on members of Congress to move towards a permanent legislative solution.