- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 14, 2018

Immigrant-rights groups are vowing to punish House Republicans in the midterm elections after moderates were unable to secure a vote on a generous amnesty for “Dreamers.”

GOP lawmakers from Hispanic-heavy districts are the biggest targets, with activists saying they betrayed immigrants.

The anger comes after rebel Republicans failed to get enough votes to force the generous amnesty bills to the floor, instead leaving control in the hands of GOP leaders who are pushing a more enforcement-heavy bill that would couple amnesty with funding for the president’s wall, limits to the chain of family migration and an end to the visa lottery.

In California’s Central Valley, activists blasted Rep. Jeff Denham, who had been one of the rebellion’s leaders, for failing to win the fight.

Across the country in Northern Virginia, meanwhile, activists went after Rep. Barbara Comstock, saying she never joined the rebellion at all.

“Barbara Comstock has chosen to ignore the needs of the fastest growing voting bloc in her district, and there are electoral consequences,” said Luis Aguilar, elections and political manager of CASA in Action.

The activists had been backing a petition drive led by Mr. Denham and other centrist Republicans, aimed at getting several Democrat-backed legalization bills onto the House floor. Every Democrat signed the “discharge petition,” but fewer than two dozen Republicans signed, putting it at 216 names — two shy of the 218 needed to force action.

The push collapsed after GOP leaders worked out a deal between conservatives and moderates on a proposal that will grant citizenship rights to perhaps 2 million illegal immigrants, but combine it with the new enforcement measures.

It would raise the threshold to claim asylum, push localities to cooperate with deportation officers, and allow faster deportation of children from Central America, who have been taking advantage of disparate treatment under the law.

The bill also takes the visas that had gone to several family migration categories and the visa lottery and uses them for Dreamers.

The White House pressed Democrats to sign on board efforts to fix the problem.

“If a handful of Democrats wanted to solve this problem, we could quickly get it done, but they don’t, and they’ve refused to come to the table and actually be part of a solution, instead of just playing political games and attacking the president,” said White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders.

Yet Democrats are unlikely to embrace the bill, having put all of their hopes on the petition drive and their own measures.

They said they’ll take the issue to voters in November.

Democrat Josh Harder, who is running against Mr. Denham in California’s 10th Congressional District, said the failure of the discharge petition is more evidence of the need to shake-up the House.

“What we learned is that despite an awful lot of press releases, despite an awful lot of talk there is no chance to have any meaningful immigration reform with this current Congress,” Mr. Harder told The Washington Times on Thursday before the pro-immigration rally. “I think that is a shame.”

He added, “We are going to make sure every voter knows [Mr. Denham’s] record, not just his rhetoric on immigration.”

The Comstock and Denham campaigns could not be reached for comment.

Andrew Surabian, a former White House aide and GOP strategist, said the Republicans that supported the petition are betting on the notion that their electoral fates hinge on winning over independent voters and peeling away some conservative Democrats in their moderate-leaning districts.

“What they are missing is that they also need to ensure that their base turns out,” Mr. Surabian said. “If you push amnesty what you risk is deflating the base, and if the base doesn’t turn out in 2018 than getting all the independent swing voters in the world won’t save you.”

“And immigration more so than any other issue could very easily lead to the deflation of the right,” he said.

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