Democrats will insist that any legislation to protect recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program include a pathway to eventual citizenship, Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) signaled Tuesday.
“If you’re going to have them here, they consider themselves to be Americans, we think there absolutely ought to be a path to citizenship for these young people,” Hoyer, the Democratic whip, told reporters in the Capitol.
“They have to earn it, they have to work hard and play by the rules ... so it’s not just saying ‘You’re in,’ ” he added.
“But to leave them in continued limbo, I think, makes no sense and is inconsistent with what the president has said.”
White House officials on Sunday issued a series of hard-line principles they’re demanding as part of legislation to safeguard the young undocumented immigrants benefiting from DACA, an Obama-era initiative that President Trump dismantled last month.
Unveiling those demands, one official said the administration is “not interested in granting citizenship” within the package.
Over a Sept. 13 dinner with Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerManchin meeting with Biden, Schumer in Delaware Progressives' optimism for large reforms dwindles Democratic frustration with Sinema rises MORE (D-N.Y.) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Trump agreed to the outlines of a deal that would combine a DACA fix with increased enforcement efforts. During that meeting, Trump indicated he would support the Development Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act, or DREAM Act, which includes a pathway to citizenship, according to the Democrats.
Hoyer said Tuesday that Democrats, while concerned the president may be walking back his promise, also deem the new White House principles to be the product of conservative immigration hawks in the White House — notably senior adviser Stephen Miller — which don’t necessarily reflect Trump’s position.
“Our belief as you know is that Miller, who’s a very hard-liner, wrote these demands, and they may or may not be going-in demands,” Hoyer said. “We don’t know. But they’re certainly not conditions that we’re going to be supportive of.”
Echoing earlier sentiments from Pelosi, Hoyer said Democrats will push hard to ensure Congress acts on a DACA fix before the end of the year.
“We don’t think we ought to go into next year. ... There’s no reason — not a single defensible reason why this is not done within the next month or two. And we want it done in the next month or two, and that’s our position and we’re going to be pretty strong on it,” he said.
The position of the Republicans, meanwhile, remains less clear.
A handful of conservative Republicans have praised Trump’s immigration principles, saying they’ll help boost American jobs and public safety around the country. But Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanJuan Williams: Pelosi shows her power Cheney takes shot at Trump: 'I like Republican presidents who win re-election' Cheney allies flock to her defense against Trump challenge MORE (R-Wis.) and other GOP leaders have been largely silent, raising plenty of questions about what immigration package, if any, the Republicans are eying.
Ryan, in taking the Speaker’s gavel two years ago, had promised conservatives in the conference that he would never call a vote on immigration legislation without the support of the majority of Republicans — a promise the conservatives haven’t forgotten as the DACA debate heats up.
Ryan has created a 10-member task force to forge the party’s immigration strategy, and aides say the Speaker is largely deferring to that group.
“The House immigration working group will review these principles and continue to consult with our conference and the administration to find a solution,” Ryan spokesman Doug Andres said Monday in an email.
Hoyer predicted the DREAM Act would pass easily if it’s brought to the floor. He’s asking Ryan to call the vote.
“If the Speaker is consistent with his stated objectives [of] letting the House work its will, and if it’s allowed to do so, it will work its will and there will be a path to citizenship for these young people,” Hoyer said.