GOP talks on immigration focus on ‘bridge’ for Dreamers

GOP talks on immigration focus on ‘bridge’ for Dreamers
© Greg Nash

Republicans left a meeting Wednesday night in Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanRealClearPolitics reporter says Freedom Caucus shows how much GOP changed under Trump Juan Williams: Biden's child tax credit is a game-changer Trump clash ahead: Ron DeSantis positions himself as GOP's future in a direct-mail piece MORE’s (R-Wis.) office without an immigration deal ahead of what is expected to be a tense conference discussion on the topic Thursday.

Lawmakers leaving the meeting said they were encouraged despite their inability to get a deal so far that would stave off a discharge petition launched by party centrists to force a series of votes on immigration measures.

“I don't think these negotiations have been a waste of time at all. They have actually exceeded my expectations, and I think that they're far along enough where the conference meeting tomorrow will be meaningful,” Rep. Carlos CurbeloCarlos Luis CurbeloDirect air capture is a crucial bipartisan climate policy Biden's corporate tax hike is bad for growth — try a carbon tax instead Cheney fight stokes cries of GOP double standard for women MORE (R-Fla.) told reporters after the meeting, which included moderates and conservatives. 

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Curbelo said House GOP leaders have a “fairly specific outline” of a possible deal, and will need input from the rest of the conference.

The Florida Republican and his allies are just three signatures away from the 218 necessary to trigger the votes through the discharge petition.

If the discharge petition succeeds, it could lead to passage of legislation that would give "Dreamers" — immigrants who came to the United States illegally as minors — a path to citizenship.

Conservatives oppose that language, arguing Dreamers should not get special privileges over other immigrants.

“The big concern for most conservatives has been the special pathway,” said Rep. Mark MeadowsMark MeadowsWashington Post calls on Democrats to subpoena Kushner, Ivanka Trump, Meadows for testimony on Jan. 6 Trump to Pence on Jan. 6: 'You don't have the courage' Trump said whoever leaked information about stay in White House bunker should be 'executed,' author claims MORE (R-N.C.), head of the conservative Freedom Caucus. 

“We had good discussions on how you take a DACA population and make sure they don't have to face deportations, but also ultimately how do they get a bridge into a legal immigration system,” he added, referring to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DAC) program launched by President Obama. President TrumpDonald TrumpRealClearPolitics reporter says Freedom Caucus shows how much GOP changed under Trump Jake Ellzey defeats Trump-backed candidate in Texas House runoff DOJ declines to back Mo Brooks's defense against Swalwell's Capitol riot lawsuit MORE ended that program in September, although it's still active because of court decisions.

Under DACA, Dreamers are allowed to work and live in the United States, but cannot apply for permanent residency without leaving the country.

Rep. Raúl Labrador (R-Idaho) and Curbelo said talks are centered on finding a “bridge” rather than a special pathway to citizenship for Dreamers.

“Special path to citizenship is something that only one population can apply for,” said Labrador, a conservative lawmaker. “So anything that just gives a status to one population that nobody else is eligible for, that's a special pathway.”

While most lawmakers agree that Dreames should be allowed to stay in the country, they disagree over how to accomplish this.

Under legislation backed by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob GoodlatteRobert (Bob) William GoodlatteBottom line No documents? Hoping for legalization? Be wary of Joe Biden Press: Trump's final presidential pardon: himself MORE (R-Va.), DACA recipients would get a six-year renewable permit that would not convert to permanent residency. They could then apply for permanent residency — a long shot for most immigrants.

Labrador declined to say whether talks on the “bridge” covered DACA recipients (about 690,000 people), Dreamers (between 1.8 million and 4 million people), or the entire undocumented population of more than 11 million people.