Bills jpg

Second House immigration bill crashes

Rep. Bob Goodlatte


By Ray O’Hanlon

The diversity visas, Ireland’s thin legal lifeline for legal entry to the United States, have survived.

For now.

Two Republican crafted immigration bills proposed to scrap the visa lottery but both crashed and burned, one last week, the other on Wednesday.

Last week’s bill was the more hardline of the two while the bill up for a vote on Wednesday was considered the compromise measure.

Both were presented to the House of Representatives by Rep. Bob Goodlatte of Virginia, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee.

Sign up to The Irish Echo Newsletter

Sign up today to get daily, up-to-date news and views from Irish America.

The more hardline bill, H.R. 4760, the Securing America’s Future Act of 2018, was always considered the less like to pass even though the GOP had the votes to reach the magic number of 218 in the House without any Democratic support. It went down 231-193, the latter figure being GOP supporters.

The bill before the House on Wednesday, H.R. 6136 or the Border Security and Immigration Reform Act of 2018 went down by 301 votes to 121, the latter figure again being Republicans.

As such, the compromise bill (dubbed “Goodlatte 2”) attracted fewer GOP votes than the hardline one.

Democrats opposed both bills.

The opposition or at least reluctance of so many Republicans was a stark indication of the divisions within GOP ranks on immigration and its reform.

The fact that President Trump had signaled his desire to see immigration reform long fingered so as to make it an election issue in the November mid-terms undoubtedly influenced a number of Republican House members when it came to voting.

That said, the president had indicated last minute support for the compromise bill though this might have only added to sense of confusion as to what exactly Mr. Trump’s true position was.

Another factor that would have poured cold water on support for both bills was signals from the U.S. Senate that either of the bills would likely have been dead on arrival in that chamber.

Reported The Hill newspaper: “The decision to vote on the hard-line immigration measure last week and the compromise bill on Wednesday was part of a deal within the GOP conference that effectively quashed the petition.

The bill also earmarked $25 billion for Trump’s border wall and other security measures, ended the diversity visa lottery program and imposed limits on family-based migration. The bill included a conservative proposal to end family separations at the border, an issue that has inflamed tensions.”

The paper had earlier reported: “The bill represented House Republicans' most steadfast effort in decades to find a compromise between moderates and conservatives, legislation that provides a path to citizenship for recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, as well as $25 billion for border security including the President's border wall.”

Neither H.R. 4760 nor H.R. 6136 had proposed a pathway to legality for the estimated eleven million illegal and undocumented in the country, thousands of Irish among them.

As such, and through a purely Irish reform lens, neither bill would have met the criteria necessary to be dubbed a true comprehensive immigration reform measure.