House Republicans face tough immigration vote, especially in districts with large foreign-born populations

  • House Republicans — especially in districts with a large share of foreign-born constituents —face a tough choice on two immigration reform bills expected to come to a vote later this week.
  • To see how foreign-born voters might influence that vote, CNBC compared the latest census data with a recent petition signed by House members to try to force a vote on the issue.
  • House Republicans who fail to support some form of immigration reform face the prospect of a heavy assault on the issue from Democrats hoping to unseat them.

Protestors march at the 'Families Belong Together March' against the separation of children of immigrants from their families on June 14, 2018 in Los Angeles, California.
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Protestors march at the 'Families Belong Together March' against the separation of children of immigrants from their families on June 14, 2018 in Los Angeles, California.

House Republicans — especially in districts with a large share of foreign-born voters — face a tough choice on two immigration reform bills expected to come to a vote later this week.

To see how foreign-born voters might influence that vote, CNBC compared the latest census data with a recent petition signed by House members to try to force a vote on the issue.

The so-called discharge petition, which last week fell two votes short of the required 218 signatures, was supported by 24 House Republicans who are eager to be on the record in November as having voted for some form of immigration reform.

But only six of those signatures came from the 20 GOP districts where more than one in 10 constituents is a foreign-born naturalized citizen.

While much of the attention so far has been focused on southern states, immigration reform is a solidly national issue. Of the top 20 GOP seats with the largest share of foreign-born constituents, 12 are in Texas, Florida and California. The rest are spread across the country in New York, New Jersey, Virginia, Washington and Georgia.

House Republicans seeking re-election in these districts face the prospect of a heavy assault on the issue from Democrats in the general election if they fail to support some form of immigration reform.

But an unusually large number House GOP incumbents aren't in the race this year, either because they've resigned, announced their retirement or decided to run for another office. Of the 20 GOP House seats with the largest foreign-born populations, only 13 incumbents are running for re-election.

The issue of immigration reform has taken on added attention after heavy bipartisan criticism of the Trump administration's policy that separates some immigrant children and parents at the U.S.-Mexico border.

On Monday, at an event on U.S. space policy, President Donald Trump blamed Democrats for the immigration reform impasse and said, there is "death and destruction" caused by people in the U.S. illegally.

Defending those harsh policies, Trump said Monday that the U.S. won't be a "migrant camp" or "refugee holding facility," "not on my watch."

If they decide to support immigration reform, House Republicans are expected to have a choice between two separate measures, both of which have been attacked by Democrats and immigration advocacy groups as too harsh. The more moderate bill would protect some 1.8 million so-called "Dreamers" from deportation and provide a path to citizenship. (The term Dreamers refers to immigrants who were brought to the U.S. illegally as children and are now living under the threat of deportation.)

Both bills would fund the border wall with Mexico that Trump wants to build. And both would cut back on legal migration, in part by denying visas for some relatives of U.S. residents and citizens who are living abroad, a process sometimes referred to as "chain migration."

The two immigration bills are likely to come to the House floor for a vote on Thursday, NBC News has reported.