Guest Opinions

Time for Congress to vote on immigration reform

A supporter of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals holds up a sign during a protest in San Francisco last year.
A supporter of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals holds up a sign during a protest in San Francisco last year. AP

It has now been eight months since President Trump called on Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform that would protect “Dreamers” – immigrants brought to the United States as children illegally through no fault of their own – while also enhancing border security and immigration enforcement. Unfortunately, Congress has failed to act on President Trump’s call.

Meanwhile, protections for Dreamers under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program expired on March 5, casting the future of these upstanding young immigrants into doubt. Border enforcement and immigration courts continue to be severely underfunded while the broader immigration system remains riddled with problems.

As members of the Idaho chapter of Mormon Women for Ethical Government, we stand with the majority of Idahoans and Americans who support immigration reform that provides legal protections for immigrants, including Dreamers. MWEG has developed 15 Declarations on Ethical Immigration Policy that promote principles such as family unity and protection of constitutional liberties. We invite all to read them.

In order to enact these principles, we call upon our elected representatives in Congress, Mike Simpson and Raul Labrador, along with Sens. Mike Crapo and Jim Risch, to support a new immigration reform effort that has gained momentum in recent days, led by five House Republicans, to break out of the current legislative logjam.

House Resolution 774 was introduced in March by Representative Jeff Dunham, R-Calif., to set in motion a procedure called the “Queen of the Hill,” which would force the House to debate and vote on four immigration bills. Under this rule, whichever bill receives the most votes exceeding a majority would move to the Senate for consideration. Three of the bills have already been introduced in Congress; the fourth bill would be chosen by Speaker of the House Paul Ryan.

The first bill, known as the Goodlatte bill, or the Securing America's Future Act of 2018, provides a temporary extension of the DACA program, along with major cuts to legal immigration and increased enforcement. This bill, co-sponsored by Labrador, has been endorsed by the conservative House Freedom Caucus, but has met with strenuous objection from more moderate Republicans, as well as Democrats.

The second bill, known as the Dream Act, would give legal status to and provide a path to citizenship for Dreamers. Since it lacks provisions for enhanced border security, however, this bill has little chance of passing the House.

The third bill, introduced by Rep. Will Hurd, R-Texas, is the USA Act. This bipartisan approach provides legal protection for Dreamers in exchange for enhanced border security.

Passage of the “Queen of the Hill” resolution requires 218 votes. Sponsors of the resolution estimated in March that they had support from 248 members of the House. However, Speaker Ryan has not allowed the resolution to come to a vote.

To get the legislative process moving, a group of centrist Republicans has introduced something called a discharge petition, which would trigger a vote on House Resolution 774 containing the “Queen of the Hill” resolution. The discharge petition needs 218 signatures. Twenty House Republicans have already signed on, but at least five more House Republicans and all House Democrats would also need to sign on in order for the petition to go into effect.

We urge Reps. Simpson and Labrador to sign the discharge petition and then vote in favor of H.R. 774, thereby allowing the four separate immigration bills to be voted on. These actions would enable Congress to do its job of legislating. As concerned citizens and voters in the Gem State, we expect nothing less.

Rachel Esplin Odell, Tiffany Collard, Amanda Stark and Liz Knight are members of the Idaho chapter of the nonpartisan Mormon Women for Ethical Government; it is not affiliated with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Odell, raised in Blackfoot, is a Ph.D. candidate in political science. Collard grew up in Boise and lives in Madison County. Stark, of Nampa, is teaching AP history at an international school in South Korea. Knight lives in Pocatello.