Duarte crosses McCarthy on key border security bill

The Modesto lawmaker cited concerns over immigration as the basis for being one of two GOP lawmakers to vote against the measure.

Rep. John Duarte (R–Modesto) broke ranks with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R–Bakersfield), voting against a marquee bill from the House GOP conference to tighten border security on Thursday.

Duarte was one of only two Republicans to vote against the bill, joining Rep. Thomas Massie (R–Kentucky). 


The big picture: Thursday, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 2, the Secure the Border Act, by a 219-213 vote, with no Democrats reaching across the aisle to support the bill. 

  • The Secure the Border Act resumes construction of the wall along the border with Mexico, it limits asylum eligibility to those who arrive in the U.S. at a port of entry and expands the types of crimes that make an individual ineligible for asylum, among other actions. 
  • It also requires the Department of Homeland Security to create an electronic employment eligibility confirmation system, modeled after the E-Verify system, and requires all employers to use it. 
  • The vote came just hours before Title 42 expired, the temporary restrictions put in place during the COVID-19 pandemic that allowed the U.S. to turn away migrants on the grounds of presenting the spread of the disease without giving them the right to seek asylum. 

Driving the news: Duarte’s decision to buck his own party and McCarthy came on the basis of protecting the Central Valley’s many farmworkers who are in the country illegally. 

  • In a statement released after casting his no vote, Duarte said the bill will be dead on arrival in the Senate, and if it passed it would ultimately create difficulties for the nation’s food producers. 
  • “With hard work from both Democrats and Republicans, we can deliver real results to fix DACA, ensure a flexible and effective guest worker program, and protect our border,” Duarte said. “I encourage my colleagues from both parties to work together on a bipartisan bill that benefits our working families and strengthens our nation’s economy.” 

The other side: On the other hand, another Valley Republican threw his support behind the bill after some key changes were made in recent days. 

  • Rep. David Valadao (R–Hanford) sided with his party after securing language in the bill that ensures any adverse impacts of the E-Verify system implemented by the bill for the agriculture sector are considered and addressed before it is fully operational. 
  • “After working closely with House leadership to address my concerns about mandating E-Verify before making reforms to the H-2A program, we were able to secure language in the border security bill to address E-Verify, and a commitment from leadership to continue working toward solutions,” Valadao said. 
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