34 House Republicans demand DACA action this year
A group of 34 House GOP members is asking Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) for a vote before year’s end on legislation to protect recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.
“We are compelled to act immediately because many DACA recipients are about to lose or have already lost their permits in the wake of the program’s rescission,” they said in a letter sent Tuesday.
“It is true that President Trump gave us a March deadline. In October, 22,000 young people lost their legal status, every day hundreds more fall into that category,” said Rep. Dan Newhouse (R-Wash.), one of the main sponsors of the letter. “So there truly is a human toll and that’s what we want to bring to the attention of our leadership.”
Trump rescinded the Obama-era program in September, giving Congress six months to act before the existing 690,000 beneficiaries lost their benefits and face the risk of deportation.
House leadership, including Ryan and Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), has insisted that the true deadline to address the issue is March 5, downplaying the urgency of a DACA fix.
Newhouse said the group’s goal is to show that a large group of Republicans supports a DACA fix with a December deadline.
“The urgency … is real and this is something that should be solved before the end of the year,” he said.
Some Democrats have said they won’t vote for any end-of-year, must-pass government spending measures, effectively threatening a government shutdown, if the issue is not addressed.
One House Republican, Rep. Carlos Curbelo (Fla.), a signatory of the letter, has joined them.
The letter’s sponsors, however, denied the document should be interpreted as a threat to do the same.
“It’s hard to say what we’re not going to do,” said Rep. Jeff Denham (R-Calif.). “The goal is to say what we are going to do and to show the amount of support that we have.”
Denham, one of the chairmen of the moderate Republican Main Street Partnership, said he believes more than 34 Republicans support a DACA solution.
“On behalf of Main Street I wouldn’t read too much into the numbers. … I would read more into the fact that we brought it up in front of members,” he said.
With 34 Republicans on board and all 193 Democrats demanding a solution in December, the idea of a DACA fix has majority support in the lower chamber.
But there’s no single bill that’s gained majority support, and the letter’s writers say they want to avoid passing legislation that could ultimately be vetoed by Trump.
“We don’t want to just pass legislation that would maybe be popular politically, we want to pass something that will be successful and get to the president’s desk and be signed,” said Newhouse.
Democrats prefer the DREAM Act, a bill that’s been introduced in the House and Senate by bipartisan sponsors. That bill would give legalization and a path to citizenship to nearly 2 million so-called Dreamers — DACA recipients and other immigrants who arrived illegally as children.
But Republicans who support a DACA fix, among them Newhouse and Curbelo, have cast doubt that a “clean” DREAM Act — one without border security provisions — would have much support in the Republican Conference or would be signed by Trump if it cleared Congress.
“There are multiple bills out there right now,” said Denham. “Members want to see an actual bill come up on the floor.”
The letter’s sponsors said they prefer a stand-alone bill rather than something tacked on to a year-end spending bill, adding that a compromise solution would likely have border security and interior enforcement measures that Democrats find unpalatable.
“I do think there is a deal to be had,” said Rep. Scott Taylor (R-Va.), one of the letter’s main sponsors, adding that border security provisions could include barriers and a “virtual wall” in certain areas.
Taylor said preventative measures could also form part of an agreement.
“Perhaps there’s disincentives to not create new populations like this,” he said.
Still, the letter asks for the DACA issue to be viewed separately from the comprehensive issue of immigration.
“We all agree that our border must be enforced, our national security defended, and our broken immigration system reformed, but at this moment, we must address the urgent matter before us in a balanced approach that does not harm valuable sectors of our economy nor the lives of these hard-working young people,” the letter reads.
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