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Battleground Republicans Continue to Empower the Extreme Rhetoric and Anti-Immigrant Legislation Pushed by Their Colleagues

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Passage of H.R. 2 Hurts their Economy, Hurts their Community, Threatens their Constituents

House Republicans are teeing up a vote on H.R. 2, an anti-immigrant and anti-asylum bill filled to the brim with Trump-era proposals, including a useless and expensive border wall. In a clear sign of how extreme the Republican-only bill is, the Federation for American Immigration Reform, a Tanton Network hate group, is enthusiastic about H.R. 2

This GOP plan is devoid of solutions but heavy on anti-immigrant red meat for the base, which is why House Speaker Kevin McCarthy announced in a highly questionable statement that the hate group-approved bill will be a priority when lawmakers return from recess. But “[i]t may not have the votes to pass the House and is unlikely to get anywhere in the Senate,” America’s Voice noted Wednesday. 

Still, the House Republican leadership needs to keep up the appearance that they have momentum on a top priority they’ve spent millions campaigning on. And as part of the political theater, Republicans hope to stage votes on their bill on May 11, which coincides with the end of Title 42. The House GOP’s slim majority and unclear support means all eyes are now on a dozen Republicans who represent districts won by President Joe Biden in the 2020 presidential election or have sought to publicly portray themselves as more moderate voices within their caucus. If they truly are solutions-focused, this bill isn’t it.

In California, Republican David Valadao won reelection in a district that went for President Biden by 13 points in 2020. Valadao retook his seat that year after losing it to Democrat TJ Cox in 2018, and went into 2020 knowing that it would be one of the highest stakes races in the nation. Part of his strategy included airing ads pitching himself as a pro-immigrant voice, touting that he “stood up to his own party to reform immigration and protect Dreamers,” America’s Voice Political Director Zachary Mueller noted in 2021. 

But in the time since, state Republicans have fought to steadily decimate the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program through the anti-immigrant judicial pipeline as Republican lawmakers in Congress are now also targeting those trying to seek safety at our southern border. If there was ever a time to stand up to his own party and defend immigrants, this is it. 

In Arizona, Republican Juan Ciscomani has touted his personal history as an example of the American Dream. During his Spanish-language rebuttal to President Biden’s State of the Union address this year, Ciscomani, a Mexican immigrant, shared that he’s twice sworn an oath to the U.S. Constitution, The Arizona Republic reported. The first was when he became a U.S. citizen, and the second when he became a member of the U.S. Congress. But should he support this draconian legislation, he’d categorically deny asylum-seekers legally seeking protections their chance at the American Dream. 

In New York, Republican Mike Lawler said in response to migrant arrivals in the state earlier this year that we “can’t lose sight of the human side of this problem. Thousands upon thousands of immigrants, including children, risking it all because they see America as their last hope for freedom and opportunity.” But supporting H.R. 2 and its anti-asylum measures would risk turning his back on the very children and families he purported to defend earlier this year. 

Other battleground Republicans in Biden-won districts — Monica de la Cruz, John Duarte, Marc Molinaro, Tom Kean, Jen Kiggans, Don Bacon and Lori Chavez-DeRemer — should also be asking themselves similar questions on whether they will stand up to the extremist and obstructionists in their party.

While her district narrowly went for indicted former President Donald Trump in 2020, Florida Republican María Elvira Salazar last year introduced an immigration bill that she pitched as “The Dignity Act.” The bill, her office said, offered a “reasonable and compassionate approach” to issues plaguing our current immigration system. She got some good press out of it, but a closer look revealed that it contained a provision that made accessing the pathway to citizenship within the bill just about impossible. Salazar won reelection over her Democratic challenger, so if it was all just a political ploy, and all signs point to that, it may have worked. But while “The Dignity Act” was essentially dead on arrival following McCarthy’s vow to never let “amnesty” bills get a vote, H.R. 2 actually is going forward, pushed by fellow Cuban-American Republican Mario Diaz-Balart, a former supporter of sensible, bipartisan reform. Now that Salazar’s vote matters, where does Salazar stand?

Texas Republican Tony Gonzales has also gotten a lot of press attention by vocally opposing his party on anti-immigrant proposals, this year challenging fellow Republican Chip Roy on an anti-asylum proposal that would even block unaccompanied migrant children from seeking protections. Gonzales slammed the proposal as “not Christian” and “anti-American.” He went even further in a tweet, adding that “Anyone who thinks a 3 page anti-immigration bill with 0% chance of getting signed into law is going to solve the border crisis should be buying beach front property in AZ.”

But H.R. 2 isn’t going to do anything to address the challenges at the border or the broken legal immigration system, either. According to one recent poll, most Americans agree that the U.S. should provide people fleeing persecution and other factors access to the asylum system. Instead we find most of the GOP caucus more interested in using vulnerable migrants as fundraising and political tools. But the GOP majority is slim enough that Republicans like Gonzales, Salazar, Ciscomani, Valadao and others can actually make a difference. The question is do they stand up for immigrants, or let the extremists run the show on this one?

“I’m not this crazy, extremist Republican,” Gonzales said earlier this year. “I’m jumping up and down, pushing against my party when I think it’s right, looking for ways to solve problems.” Well, let’s see it. Oppose H.R. 2.