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Why Joe Heck & House Republican Leaders Are Deservedly Under Fire on Immigration

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In New Op-Ed, Rep. Heck Tries to Explain His Immigration Record, But Unwittingly Demonstrates Why He’s Vulnerable on Issue

House Republican leaders’ slow-walk on immigration reform that includes a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants is becoming a political liability for Republican incumbents representing demographically diverse districts.  Take a look at the case of Rep. Joe Heck (R-NV).  He is resorting to increasingly desperate excuses to justify House Republican inaction.  This is made doubly difficult because the only immigration proposal that the House has taken to the floor is a Rep. Steve King (R-IA) amendment vote to defund DACA, which would subject DREAMers to deportation.

What’s a purple district Republican to do?  Rep. Heck just took to the Las Vegas Review-Journal to pen an op-ed.  In it, he says, rather defensively:

Contrary to many statements, I did not vote to deport ‘Dreamers.’  I voted to defund implementation of a presidential executive order called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals [DACA].

This is a distinction without a difference – by its very nature, rescinding the DACA program means that DREAMers are one again vulnerable to deportation.  Rep. Heck goes onto explain that:

I have publicly stated repeatedly that young people brought here in an undocumented status need a chance to make a life for themselves in the only country they have ever known…But the appropriate method is through a transparent and public legislative process via the elected representatives of the American people, not executive fiat.  My vote reflected that belief.  In addition, I have drafted a bill to address this issue that is gathering support from interested parties at both the local and national level.

However, the fact remains that the Administration created DACA only because Republicans in Congress had already voted against the “appropriate method” when they opposed the 2010 DREAM Act.  After successfully passing the then-Democratically controlled House of Representatives (Heck opposed the bill as a House candidate), the DREAM Act received 55 Senate votes, but fell five votes short of overcoming a Republican filibuster and becoming law (Republican Senators voted against it by a 36-3 margin, while Democratic Senators voted in favor by a 52-5 margin).

What about the present and the new DREAMer bill that Rep. Heck mentions in his op-ed?  Well, it’s now apparently on the backburner.   According to new press accounts Rep. Heck will not even introduce it.  Which raises the question, where is the KIDS Act – another Republican version of the DREAM Act – that House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) has been touting for months in the press?  Well it’s yet to be introduced as legislation and exists only in press releases and Cantor speeches.

According to Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice:

Rep. Heck is deservedly under fire for his immigration votes and inaction, but his record is a larger indictment of House Republican leaders’ approach to immigration this Congress.  The real leadership and hard work needed to turn around the Party’s image to Latinos cannot occur solely through press statements, speeches, and op-eds.  The first step?  Actually introduce some positive, pro-reform legislation and empower Members to turn their legislative promises into legislative progress.  If Heck is serious about changing his record on immigration, he needs to cosponsor the only bipartisan bill introduced in the House that would solve this dilemma once and for all: H.R. 15.  Voters are looking for action, not excuses and ‘explanations’—and it’s time for Rep. Heck to take bold and decisive action.