GOP lawmaker seeks to keep DACA intact through spending package
© Greg Nash

A centrist House Republican has filed amendments to an upcoming spending package to keep intact an Obama-era program to shield young immigrants brought to the U.S. illegally as children from deportation.

Rep. Carlos Curbelo’s (R-Fla.) amendments to a government spending bill slated for House floor consideration next week come amid reports that President Trump is considering whether to eliminate the 2012 program, known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).

The first amendment filed by Curbelo would prohibit the use of funds to change the Department of Homeland Security memo that established DACA in 2012.

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His second proposal would allow DACA recipients to be eligible to work for the federal government.

Both of Curbelo’s amendments were co-sponsored by Democratic Rep. Pete Aguilar (Calif.).

Aguilar originally authored a provision in the Financial Services appropriations bill that would let DACA recipients serve as government employees. The House Appropriations Committee adopted Aguilar’s amendment during a panel markup last month by voice vote.

But Aguilar’s amendment has since been stripped out of the measure ahead of its floor consideration. The spending measure will be combined with seven other annual appropriations bills to fund the Departments of Homeland Security, Interior, Agriculture, Justice, Commerce, Treasury, Labor, Health and Human Services, State, Transportation, and Housing and Urban Development.

The House Rules Committee, which acts as an arm of the majority party leadership, is expected to meet next week to decide which amendments filed to the spending package will get floor time. It’s unlikely that House GOP leaders would allow a vote to reinsert the language originally authored by Aguilar.

Meanwhile, two conservative Republicans, Reps. Steve King (Iowa) and Andy Biggs (Ariz.), have submitted amendments to defund the DACA program.

Under DACA, nearly 800,000 immigrants brought to the country illegally as children have been granted temporary work permits and deferral from deportation.

The Department of Homeland Security announced in June that current DACA recipients would continue to be eligible for renewal.

But Trump faces a Sept. 5 deadline to decide whether to defend the program in court against 10 conservative state attorneys general who are threatening to challenge its legality.

The Justice Department has yet to say whether it will defend DACA, but several reports have emerged in the past week that the Trump administration is leaning toward rescinding the program under pressure from conservatives.

Curbelo’s office didn’t immediately return a request for comment. But he has defended DACA in the past, most recently by signing a letter last week urging Trump to let the program stay.

Curbelo also introduced legislation earlier this year, titled the Recognizing America’s Children Act that would establish a pathway for DACA recipients and other young immigrants to gain legal status. The bill has not advanced since Curbelo unveiled it in March.

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