Republican Rep. Mia Love has signed onto a petition — sidestepping her party’s leadership — to force the House into a vote on legislation to protect young undocumented immigrants from deportation.
It’s a somewhat audacious move for the Utah congresswoman. But it’s also one that rarely gains enough support to work.
While it is expected that most of the 193 Democrats in the House will add their names, the discharge petition would require at least 25 GOP lawmakers join to meet the 218-signature threshold. Seven Republicans filed the motion Wednesday, and an additional 10 signed on by the afternoon. Love was No. 6.
“If the bills are not allowed to come to the floor and to be debated on the floor, then we can’t say the people have a voice,” she said. “If we don’t vote for something, we get absolutely nothing.”
Her participation in the push comes two months after the March expiration date set by President Donald Trump when he dismantled the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. DACA allowed undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children to legally obtain work permits and attend school.
Federal judges have since delayed the dissolution, and congressional leaders, including House Speaker Paul Ryan, have largely avoided bringing up bills on immigration — a thorny topic for many conservatives who diverge widely on whether to include a path to citizenship for DACA recipients, amnesty for family members or provisions for border security.
The petition would open votes on three current proposals, including an updated version of the Dream Act and the bipartisan USA Act, which Love supports, that includes protection from deportation and funding for new technology at the nation’s borders. (Ryan can also bring up an additional bill of his choosing.)
Though it’s unusual to see members of a party buck their own leadership, the signatures come in the midst of an election year where incumbents are eager to show voters what they’ve accomplished and avoid pushback from opponents over inaction.
Love is the only member of Utah’s congressional delegation to sign the immigration measure so far. She’s also headed into what’s expected to be the state’s most competitive race, facing a credible challenge from Democrat and Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams.
McAdams has run ads on Facebook for the past nine months that blame “Love and the rest of Congress” for having “failed to take a single vote” on a legislative solution to replace DACA. His campaign also points to a 2015 bill, which Love voted in favor of, that blocked funding for then-President Barack Obama’s immigration orders.
The legislation included two controversial amendments, one to stop an executive action that would have allowed some undocumented immigrants to stay in the country and a second to halt the DACA program. Love also voted “yea” on those, according to House records.
“If it weren’t an election year, I’d say we’re surprised that a congresswoman who voted multiple times to defund DACA and deport these kids signed this petition,” said the mayor’s campaign spokesman Andrew Roberts. “While this is a step in the right direction, the reality remains that Congress has had nine months to protect Dreamers and their families and has not taken a single vote to do so. Let’s hope this changes that.”
Love countered that her “opponent has nothing to do with” her signing the discharge petition and that she is deeply determined to resolve the uncertainty over immigration — not influenced by election politics.
“This is a position that we’ve taken long before he got in the race,” she said. “That’s baloney!”
And the vote on the 2015 bill, her office added, was not about hurting DACA recipients but rather opposing executive overreach. Her spokesman said the congresswoman’s position on immigration has not changed and pointed to an op-ed she wrote in September that reads, in part: “Legislative authority cannot be transferred to the executive in the name of expediency. Congress represents, and always has represented, our only chance for lasting immigration reform.”
Love, whose parents fled Haiti to escape potential persecution and settled in the United States, also said at the time that she is “sensitive to the position in which young, undocumented immigrants find themselves.” She has long been frustrated by the inaction on Dreamers and urged House Speaker Ryan to prioritize passing a fix before Congress went home for the holidays last year.
The congresswoman asked Trump to apologize, too, in January after he reportedly called Haiti, El Salvador and African nations “‘s---hole countries.” When she sat down with the president, she didn’t bring up the comment but asked him to help find a fix for the hundreds of thousands of immigrants who had protections under DACA.
“As the child of immigrants, she has an important voice here,” said David Magleby, a political science professor at Brigham Young University. He believes that Love signing the immigration petition Wednesday was “smart politics.”
It doesn’t look like Utah’s three congressmen will add their names. Rep. Rob Bishop’s spokesman said he does not intend to join, and Rep. John Curtis hasn’t decided but is “looking at everything.” Rep. Chris Stewart’s office did not respond to requests for comment.
But Love faces a much tighter midterm race than any of them do.
For voters in the 4th Congressional District, which includes part of left-leaning Salt Lake County and part of right-leaning Utah County, it could come down to Love’s and McAdams’ stances on immigration when casting a ballot, Magleby believes.
“There’s a longstanding tradition in Congress of members being able to buck leadership when it is a matter of importance to their re-election or to their constituents,” he added. “I would argue that it’s important to Mia Love in both respects.”