More Than 50 Dems Join House Republicans for Anti-Immigrant Legislative Blitz

Jonathan Cohn
4 min readFeb 2, 2024

The House of Representatives has spent the week passing anti-immigrant bills, believing that stirring up xenophobia will be an effective strategy against President Biden (and also showing their own blatant racism and xenophobia). Unfortunately, far too many House Democrats joined them.

Each of the three main anti-immigrant bills passed this week would seek to make it easier to deport legal non-citizens (e.g., green card holders) for non-violent offenses with minimal to no due process.

Let’s break that down:

  • These bills targeted lawfully present non-citizens (e.g., green card holders): Rep. Jerry Nadler, the ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, pointed out in the dissenting views in each Committee report that Republicans consistently conflated “inadmissability” and “deportability” in their arguments. In short, “inadmissability” concerns what could prevent someone from attaining lawful status, while “deportability” concerns what could make someone who has lawful status be removed from the country nonetheless. Republicans like to pretend that they have no problem with “legal immigration”; these bills prove that to be a lie.
  • These bills focused on non-violent offenses: They were, in order of passage, fleeing from a border agent via motor vehicle (HR 5585), Social Security fraud (HR 6678), and driving under the influence (HR 6976).
  • In the first bill and the third bill, the House relied on overbroad definitions of criminal activity. As Rep. Nadler pointed out, HR 5585 — despite Republican rhetoric — has no required standard for proving that any intent to flee actually existed (and despite rhetoric about “high-speed chases,” also lacks any standard for speeding). Similarly, HR 6976 ignores the fact that the standard for a DUI varies greatly state to state. As Nadler pointed out, some jurisdictions do not even require the individual to be physically driving the vehicle for a DUI offense to be committed. Sitting in a car in your own driveway with a can of beer? Deportable to Republicans.
  • These bills were an assault on due process: The first two bills waived any requirement that the individual in question actually be convicted of the crime in question. The charges could prove to be false — no matter, the person will be deported anyway.

And to make matters worse…

H R 5585 also created new maximum penalties and mandatory minimum sentences. We have been seeing increasing recognition of the harmfulness of mandatory minimums, which take away judicial discretion and have been applied in racially discriminatory ways. This bill would take us backwards.

H R 6678, as Nadler noted, would “lead to absurd consequences” if it becomes law: “It would be easier to deport someone for social security fraud related offenses, than it is to deport someone for murder, rape, or sexual abuse of a minor, all of which require a conviction.”

And it’s not like some Democrats didn’t try…

In the committee markup for HR 5585, Rep. Veronica Escobar (TX-16) offered an amendment to require a conviction before a person can be deported under this new ground, and Republicans rejected it on a party line vote.

In the the committee markup for HR 6678, Rep. Pramila Jayapal (WA-07) offered an amendment to require a conviction before a person can be deported under this new standard, and Republicans rejected it on a party line vote.

In the committee markup for HR 6976, Jayapal an amendment to allow an adjudicator to consider a variety of mitigating factors, such as the severity of the offense or if anyone was hurt, before rendering someone deportable. Republicans rejected it on a party line vote.

And yet all three bills passed, with far too much Democratic support at that.

HR 5585 passed 271 to 154, with 56 Democrats voting yes.

HR 6678 passed 272 to 155, with 55 Democrats voting yes.

HR 6976 passed 274 to 150, with 59 Democrats voting yes.

50 Democrats voted for all three bills:

And then 15 additional Democrats voted for at least one of the bills.

Voting for both HR 5585 and HR 6976 were 2: Brittany Pettersen (CO-07) and Andrea Salinas (OR-06).

Voting for both HR 6678 and HR 6976 were 3: Bill Foster (IL-11), Steve Cohen (TN-09), and Mike Levin (CA-49).

Voting for only HR 5585 were 4: Jim Costa (CA-21), Brian Higgins (NY-26), Seth Magaziner (RI-02), and Marc Veasey (TX-33).

Voting for only HR 6678 were 2: Kathy Castor (FL-14) and Bill Pascrell (NJ-09).

Voting for only HR 6976 were 4: Scott Peters (CA-50), Deborah Ross (NC-02), Brad Schneider (IL-10), and Eric Swalwell (CA-14).

That total of 65, of course, remains only 30% of the Democratic caucus. On the other hand, that is *30%* of the Democratic caucus…..



Jonathan Cohn

Editor. Bibliophile. Gadfly. Environmentalist. Super-volunteer for progressive campaigns. Boston by way of Baltimore, London, NYC, DC, and Philly.