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Honorable Mark Sanford

Representing the 1st District of South Carolina

Vote Notes: H.R.6136, Border Security and Immigration Reform Act of 2018

Jun 27, 2018
Blog Post

They say in business never to negotiate against yourself...but it seems that’s exactly what Republicans did with the so-called immigration compromise bill (H.R. 6136). It came back to the floor today for a vote, and I voted against it as it remained a watered-down version of the more conservative original Goodlatte bill (HR 4670) that I had supported last week.

As might be anticipated, there were things added and subtracted from the bill in the hope of gaining votes, but the House’s rejection of the bill spoke clearly to the fact that there’s still more compromise to be done in finding the additional twenty votes that it will take to see passage.

The compromise bill failed 121 to 301, 97 votes short...but amazingly, it garnered even less support than the original Goodlatte bill, which is where negotiating against yourself becomes a part of the equation.

The original promise to take this vote was tied to giving moderates in the House a vote so that they did not enact what’s called a discharge petition and thereby see the floor ceded to Democrats in the way that the proceedings of the House work.

The original Goodlatte bill aimed to deal with so-called DACA kids while concurrently passing border and immigration security measures. This bill weakened that trade off so that there was more benefit for so-called DACA kids and less in the way of border and immigration security.

The Trump administration has called for “4 pillars” on immigration reform, namely border security, merit-based visas, an end to chain migration, and addressing DACA. Let me walk through the ways in which the trade offs between these four components watered down the original Goodlatte bill to a point that I think would be unacceptable to the majority of folks that I represent.

This compromise bill would result in more net immigration. The Center of Immigration Studies believes that this bill would result in a net increase of 2.12 million more green cards over the next 15 years, whereas the original Goodlatte bill would result in a net decrease of 1.23 million green cards. Perhaps this is why groups such as NumbersUSA opposed the former and supported the latter.

It grants new levels of citizenship without upgrades to internal immigration enforcement. It’s one thing to say that folks will trade off some measure of enforcement with DACA kids in exchange for the permanency of a wall and immigration security enhancements, but this bill did the reverse.

An estimated 1.8 to 2.4 million DACA eligible immigrants would get permanent legal status and a new path to citizenship for this group after 5 years. That is substantially more than the 700,000 the original Goodlatte bill addressed and which did not provide a new path to citizenship. Concurrently, it took out the E-Verify portion of what had originally been contained in the Goodlatte bill.

It left in place so-called chain migration. Specifically, the bill eliminated only 2 of the 5 family preference categories. What this means is that siblings were eliminated as a family preference category as were married children...but the other three family preferences were kept in the bill. And at a practical level, what this means is that the other family niches still left in place would then be able to sponsor other family members and effectively undermine the partial elimination of chain migration contemplated in the bill.

The win in the bill was the $23.4 billion funding for the border wall and the elimination of the diversity visa lottery. These diversity visa lottery slots would be redirected toward a merit-based system, but even with these changes, it would still leave us with an immigration system that is less than 15% merit-based and 85% would continue to be family-based.

There was temporary hope that Goodlatte would be able to add an amendment that would have dealt with ag guest workers, but this - along with E-Verify and a seasonal change to the H-2B visa program - was ultimately dropped from the bill in the eleventh hour.

So, the bottom line is that I believe that there will be a third bite at the apple, and I think that we may finally hit the sweet spot in dealing with DACA kids and simultaneously addressing border and internal immigration security and enforcement...but we’re not there yet.