Moderate House Republicans angling for a legislative fix to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program have quietly created an informal working group to try and craft an immigration plan that could pass Congress, according to GOP sources.
The lawmakers have met off and on for months. But it was in anticipation of President Donald Trump’s eventual decision last week to phase out the Obama-era executive action that granted hundreds of thousands of young undocumented immigrants work permits and deportation protections, said one person familiar with the group’s workings. Now that Trump has made his DACA decision official, the group will be meeting more frequently.
Republicans who have engaged in the casual talks include Reps. Carlos Curbelo and Mario Diaz-Balart of Florida; Jeff Denham and David Valadao of California, Mark Amodei of Nevada and Dan Newhouse of Washington, among other lawmakers. The GOP leadership is aware of these discussions, although it’s not a group led by Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) nor his top deputies.
The ad hoc could gain more political momentum after Trump tentatively agreed to codify DACA into law after a dinner with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), according to the Democrats. They left the White House meeting Wednesday night saying they and Trump had agreed to a vaguely outlined deal on DACA in exchange for increased border security. Trump, sources said, agreed funding for his border wall with Mexico would not be included in the package — a notion he also floated earlier in the day to a bipartisan group of House members who visited him to talk tax reform.
Most members of the working group are longtime advocates of comprehensive immigration reform efforts on the Hill. Denham and Valadao signed up as co-sponsors of the Dream Act on Wednesday, while Curbelo has his own more conservative blueprint for the so-called Dreamers.
Most of the members are longtime advocates of comprehensive immigration reform efforts on the Hill. Denham and Valadao signed up as co-sponsors of the Dream Act on Wednesday, while Curbelo has his own more conservative blueprint for the so-called Dreamers.
Congress faces a major immigration challenge after Trump’s announcement this month that he would phase out DACA in six months, throwing the futures of nearly 700,000 Dreamers who currently have work permits under the 2012 program into question.
Republicans say a standalone Dream Act — which would grant permanent legal status to the undocumented immigrants who came here as minors — will not move through either the House nor the Senate. So the onus is on lawmakers to figure what measures could be paired with the legislation that would still make it palatable to Democrats.
Some options are including the so-called “down payment” on a border wall that cleared the House as part of a broader appropriations bill earlier this summer, or security measures that were included in the House’s funding bill for the Department of Homeland Security. A top White House official indicated this week that the administration would not insist on a border wall in exchange for signing a Dreamer-oriented bill into law.
But the current fiscal year’s funding bill, which Congress drafted and passed earlier this spring, included a number of new immigration security measures that totaled about $1.14 billion, one Democratic aide noted.
The provisions included handheld radios, remote video systems, mobile video systems, port of entry tech enhancements, replacing existing fencing, while fully staffing Customs and Border Protection.