Democrats in the House of Representatives are trying to force a vote on H.R. 15, a comprehensive immigration reform bill, introduced by House Democrats last year. H.R. 15 models S. 744 passed last June by the full Senate. In an unusual maneuver called a “discharge petition,” the House would need 218 votes to force a vote on H.R. 15. Although the G.O.P. members introduced a set of immigration reform “principals,” they have not voted on any immigration reform bills at all, whether comprehensive in nature like H.R. 15, or any of the “piecemeal” bills their principals in fact promoted as a way to tackle reform efforts.
Discharge petitions have been used in other areas (e.g., unemployment insurance, raising the minimum wage). If enough signatures are received, it would force a vote on H.R. 15 even if the House majority leadership opposes. As of March 26, there were only 200 co-sponsors. Even if the petition does not get enough signatures, the Democrats are putting more pressure on the G.O.P to make the House do something this term on immigration reform.
Meanwhile, President Obama supported the Democrats’ efforts force a vote on the issue. But some immigration activists feel the discharge petition is more of a stunt than anything helpful that the Administration or Congress could do to stop the deportations. President Obama, also known as the “Deporter in Chief” by some, has been responsible for record-breaking deportations or removals, (depending upon how one does the counting). The Administration held a meeting earlier in the month with immigration advocacy groups to determine what else he could do within the bounds of his authority, but he mostly punted to Congress, which has the authority to make bold changes to the nation’s immigration laws.