Rep. Jeff Denham (R., Calif.) is in a tough re-election fight. He won by three points in 2016 in a district Hillary carried by the same margin. His district, centered on Modesto, is about 40 percent Hispanic.
That last fact explains his leading role in trying to get a “Dreamer” amnesty passed through the House. Working with the Democrats, he is pushing a discharge petition which, if it gets 218 signatures, would force the leadership to bring up four immigration bills for a vote, and whichever one passed with the largest number of votes would be enacted. (This is the so-called queen-of-the-hill rule.) Without going into detail, Denham’s hope is that the amnesty bill he has co-sponsored, H.R. 4796, would be the one to get the most votes. That bill would pair an amnesty even more expansive than the 1.8 million illegal aliens that the president has agreed to, with some unremarkable border-security window-dressing that would do nothing to contain the fallout of the amnesty.
In effect, Denham’s gambit is a way to negate the Hastert Rule, under which leadership pledges not to bring up for a vote any measure that doesn’t have the support of a majority of the Republican caucus. If all the Democrats support an amnesty, then it could pass even if 90 percent of Republicans vote against it.
Denham’s alliance with the Democrats to push the discharge petition has divided Republicans. Even though the bill probably won’t even be brought up in the Senate, let alone signed by the president, if the Republican House passed an illegal-alien amnesty almost entirely with Democratic votes it’d be likely to outrage some Republican voters, demoralize others, and generally kill the momentum that now points to the recently unthinkable possibility that the GOP could actually retain its House majority in November. The House leadership seems to understand this; as Politico describes comments by the House Majority Leader, “Passing a bipartisan immigration bill that the base hates, McCarthy argued, would depress Republican turnout, and possibly cost the party the House.”
So if Denham is trying to save his own electoral skin at the price of splitting his party and helping elect Nancy Pelosi as Speaker again, then his approach to a “Dreamer” amnesty must be super popular among the Hispanic voters he’s trying to attract, right?
A new poll by Pulse Opinion Research (toplines here, crosstabs here) shows that Hispanic voters in Denham’s 10th Congressional District oppose his approach and support instead the Goodlatte bill’s approach, the one endorsed by the president and supported by most House Republicans.
Here are the two questions offering competing approaches to a “Dreamer” amnesty bill (I’ve inserted the sponsors’ names; they weren’t mentioned in the survey):
[Goodlatte approach]: “Would you support a bill that legalized certain young-adult illegal immigrants brought to the United States as children and that also reduced future annual immigration by ending chain migration and by mandating that employers use E-Verify to prevent them from hiring illegal workers?” Hispanics: 58% yes, 22% no, 20% not sure.
[Denham approach]: “Would you support a bill that legalized certain young-adult illegal immigrants brought to the United States as children, but continued Chain Migration, kept total immigration at one million a year and allowed employers to hire without checking legal status with E-Verify?” Hispanics: 38% yes, 50% no, 13% not sure.
The Goodlatte approach received at least plurality support from every subgroup and a majority from most; the Denham approach received plurality support, barely, only from self-identified liberals.
Denham’s ignorance of the views of his own Hispanic constituents suggest his partnership with Democrats to pass an amnesty through the House might well hand the majority to Nancy Pelosi while failing to secure his own job.