Washington, D.C. — Today, U.S. Representative Mike Coffman (R-CO) used a legislative maneuver known as a "discharge petition" to attempt to force a floor vote on a bipartisan bill, H.R. 496 the Bar Removal of Individuals who Dream and Grow our Economy Act, BRIDGE Act, that he introduced in January with U.S. Representative Louis Gutierrez (D-IL). The BRIDGE Act would extend Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA for another three years to give Congress time to find a permanent solution for the young people who were brought to the United States as children. An identical version was also introduced in January in the Senate, S. 128, by Senators Lindsay Graham (R-SC) and Dick Durbin (D-IL). The DACA program is for undocumented immigrants who were taken to the United States illegally when they were under 16 years of age, have graduated from or are enrolled in high school and can pass a criminal background check.
"I've met many of these young people in Colorado who were brought to the United States as children and who grew up here, who went to school here and who often know of no other country. The DACA program that has given them an opportunity to come out of the shadows, legally work, and pursue higher education," said Coffman.
Coffman's discharge petition would require the 218 signatures needed to reflect the will of the majority to force the bill to the floor for a vote. Otherwise, legislation requires the consent of the leadership from the majority party, since 2011 the House has been under Republican control. What is different about Coffman's use of the discharge petition is that it has been a tool for members of the minority party against the majority but not by a member of the majority party against the leadership of his own party.
"I see the discharge petition as a way to bring legislation to the floor should Republican leadership fail to allow a floor vote on a bill to protect these young people," said Coffman.
President Donald Trump announced today that he would be suspending the DACA program but would allow six months for Congress to pass legislation that would take care of the constitutional question of, under former President Barack Obama, creating immigration laws through executive actions without the consent of Congress.
On June 29, 2017, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton wrote a letter to the. U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions demanding that the Trump Administration either suspend the DACA program or that he would file a lawsuit in a federal district court to challenge the constitutionality of the program. Paxton had led a successful court challenge against a similar Obama-era executive action designed to give a temporary legal status to the parents of the DACA participants. The never implemented program was called Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents, or DAPA. The court ruled that the program was invalid because a president cannot unilaterally make immigration laws without the legislative branch. Paxton could use similar language, if not identical, to challenge DACA. His letter was signed by 9 other Republican attorneys general.
"This is an opportunity for Congress to address the Constitutional problem associated with DACA and to protect these young people until a more permanent solution can be found," concluded Coffman.