House Republican: 'I worry about both sides' of the aisle on DACA

House Republican: 'I worry about both sides' of the aisle on DACA
© Greg Nash

A permanent legislative replacement for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program is in the best interest of the Republican Party and President TrumpDonald John TrumpShocking summit with Putin caps off Trump’s turbulent Europe trip GOP lambasts Trump over performance in Helsinki Trump stuns the world at Putin summit MORE, according to a House Republican who's taken an active role on immigration.

Colorado Republican Rep. Mike CoffmanMichael (Mike) Howard CoffmanHillicon Valley: Trump denies Russian meddling at presser with Putin | Republicans join in criticism of Trump | FCC chief rejects Sinclair-Tribune merger | Uber faces probe over gender discrimination | Social media execs headed to Capitol Midterms will show voters are tired of taking back seat to Wall Street Overnight Health Care: Trump officials want more time to reunite families | Washington braces for Supreme Court pick | Nebraska could be next state to vote on Medicaid expansion MORE told The Hill he's ready to buck his party's leadership to fight for so-called Dreamers, but thinks Republicans have incentives to extend or expand DACA benefits.

"Nobody wants a situation where they’re deporting these young people. The president doesn’t want that visual, Republican leadership doesn't want that visual," said Coffman.

Coffman, one of two Republicans who's signed a discharge petition to bring the Dream Act to the House floor, said he wants a path to citizenship for Dreamers, but not at the expense of getting a deal done.

The Dream Act is a bipartisan proposal that would give residency and a path to citizenship to nearly 2 million immigrants who came to the country illegally as children, including DACA beneficiaries.

If the Democrat-led discharge petition succeeded — such legislative measures hardly ever do — it would force a House floor vote on the bill, skipping over leadership.

Coffman, who signed on to the petition in September, said he's growing increasingly confident such extreme measures will be unnecessary.

Still, Coffman warned that a DACA solution — and protections for Dreamers in general — will face challenges from the left and right.

"I worry about both sides," Coffman said. "On the left, saying it’s an all-or-nothing proposition. On the right, not being committed to a solution."

While Democrats unanimously support measures like the Dream Act — every member of the caucus has signed on to the discharge petition — many are demanding a "clean" Dream Act, that doesn't include border security concessions for Republicans.

Some Democrats and one Republican, Rep. Carlos CurbeloCarlos Luis CurbeloMueller indictments: Congressional candidate asked Russian operatives for info on opponent Lawmakers discuss efforts to boost Latino entrepreneurship On The Money — Sponsored by Prudential — Trump suggests China is easing pressure on North Korea because of trade fight | Mulvaney taps top aide as No. 2 at consumer bureau | House Republican to offer bill to curtail Trump's trade powers MORE (R-Fla.), have vowed to withhold their vote for any must-pass end-of-year spending bill unless Congress legislates on Dreamer protections.

"I’m not for shutting down the government," Coffman said. "My backup, if all else fails, is I’d file a discharge petition on the Bridge Act."

The Bridge Act is a proposal Coffman introduced in January that would extend the benefits of DACA for three years to allow time for Congress to find a permanent solution.

The key difference between temporary measures like DACA and Bridge, and permanent measures, like Dream or Curbelo's RAC Act, is only the latter provide beneficiaries a path to citizenship.

Democrats have made that path to citizenship central to their DACA proposal, arguing that without it, people allowed to live and work in the United States permanently would essentially become second-class citizens.

Coffman, despite being the Bridge Act's primary sponsor, has a more practical qualm with temporary measures.

"If we don’t have a permanent solution for these young people that means we’ll be debating this in three years," he said.

If Congress doesn't legislate a replacement for DACA, its 690,000 beneficiaries will officially begin to lose benefits on March 5, the end date for the program set by Trump's rescission order in September.

But some beneficiaries are already losing their benefits due to expiration, something that's driven a sense of urgency among supporters in Congress.

"At a minimum we need to pass something like the Bridge Act," said Coffman.

Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanGOP lambasts Trump over performance in Helsinki Trump stuns the world at Putin summit Former Trump aide says he canceled CNN appearance over 'atrocious' Helsinki coverage MORE (R-Wis.) has insisted that March 5 is the real deadline for action, and that Congress now has its hands full with tax reform and government spending.

Ryan put together a working group on the issue in September, but that group has yet to present a formal proposal that could garner 218 votes in the House.

Some Republicans are starting to grow impatient. A group of 34 GOP members, including Coffman, penned a letter to Ryan Tuesday asking for a vote on a Dreamer bill before year's end.

Other groups, including the moderate Main Street Partnership and the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus, have put together their own task forces to come up with a viable compromise between Dreamer protections and border security measures. 

"I do think that we are close in the Problem Solvers Caucus," Coffman said.

But Coffman said any solution would ultimately have to go through Trump and leadership, adding that only they know how they'll handle the matter.

"Since I’m someone who’s willing to stand up to leadership and the president on these issues, I’m not in their confidence on this stuff," he said.