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Bipartisan group to introduce DACA bill in House

Greg Nash

A bipartisan group of House members on Tuesday will introduce a long-rumored bill to replace an Obama-era program shielding certain immigrants who came to the United States as young people from deportation.

The bill, which would also bolster border security, is backed by a group of lawmakers led by Reps. Will Hurd (R-Texas) and Pete Aguilar (D-Calif.). They claim to have more than 40 members from both parties backing their bill.

The United and Securing America (USA) Act would provide a pathway to citizenship for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program recipients “while achieving operational control of the border,” said Hurd.

Some of the DACA’s 690,000 recipients, those unable to renew their permits before an October deadline, have already started losing their status. If Congress fails to act before March, the attrition rate will increase from an average of 120 recipients a day to thousands per day, until the last permits expire in late 2019 or early 2020.

“We must act immediately. We must provide them with certainty,” said Aguilar.

The group’s sponsors said they’d be open to amendments and putting the bill through regular order, but said they have 80 hours — until government funding runs out on Friday — to introduce the bill and run it through Congress.

“Many of us believe that a narrow, bipartisan approach is the way to solve this problem,” said Hurd.

The bill will face challenges from the right and left, and competition from rival measures supported by influential leaders in the House and Senate.

Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), chairman of the Judiciary Committee, introduced a proposal last week with fellow Republican Reps. Raúl Labrador (Idaho), Michael McCaul (Texas) and Martha McSally (Ariz.) that would grant fewer and temporary protections only to DACA recipients, in exchange for a wide range of border security and immigration enforcement provisions.

While Democrats and some Republicans, including Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-Fla.), an outspoken GOP proponent of immigration reform, labeled the Goodlatte bill a “non-starter,” its powerful list of sponsors all but guarantees it’ll be prioritized by Republican leadership.

But the Goodlatte bill seems unlikely to win a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate.

The USA Act also faces competition from a bipartisan Senate bill crafted by Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), which was shot down by Trump Thursday.

Durbin pledged to keep pushing his bill with the hope of forcing Trump to sign a bipartisan agreement.

Durbin and Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), a supporter of the Senate measure, have called it “the only game in town.”

But Hurd disputed that assessment, saying, “It’s not the only game in town because you have more than 40 Republicans and Democrats with a thoughtful, smart approach.”

More and more Democrats are pledging to withhold their vote on any spending measure unless a DACA fix is passed, forcing leadership to work on another temporary spending bill rather than funding the government for an entire year.

That’s increased the chances of a shutdown, and the possibility that Republicans might need Democratic votes in the House to pass even a temporary measure.

Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D-N.M.), chairwoman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, said her group would stick to its pledge to vote against any spending measure unless DACA was resolved. She also signaled some openness to negotiate if a hard-line strategy put at risk the immigration benefits sought under a DACA fix. 

“If we don’t get a vote, I think that strategy will stay. But we also don’t want any strategies to keep us from prevailing, though there’s been nothing to change the caucus’s strategy to date,” she said.

Tags bipartisan Bob Goodlatte Carlos Curbelo deferred action for childhood arrivals Dick Durbin Immigration Jeff Flake Jeff Flake Lindsey Graham Martha McSally Michael McCaul Michelle Lujan Grisham Pete Aguilar USA Act Will Hurd Will Hurd
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