A group of House Republicans is preparing a letter asking Speaker Paul Ryan to find a legislative fix by December for almost 800,000 undocumented young people brought to the U.S. as children. Their eligibility to remain in the country hangs in the balance as part of an end-of-year legislative pileup on Capitol Hill.
President Donald Trump rescinded the Obama administration's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program earlier this year, calling on Congress to pass legislation that would provide DACA recipients with a path to permanent status in the U.S. before the program phases out in March 2018.
The effort to gather signatures for the letter is being led by Virginia Republican Scott Taylor, according to Congressional Hispanic Caucus Chairwoman Michelle Lujan Grisham, a New Mexico Democrat, who spoke with reporters in a background briefing Thursday morning. Taylor's office did not respond to a VOA request for comment.
Grisham said she did not have the text of the letter, but her sense of it was that if a legislative option was not offered, members would sign on to a discharge petition that would force a vote on a DACA bill. That petition was introduced by Republican Mike Coffman earlier this year.
Coffman told VOA he was "certainly optimistic something is going to be done before March." He said he would have to consider any letter that sought a more immediate solution.
For their part, Democrats "are still very clear as a caucus," Grisham said. "We have to do it by the end of the year."
The DACA program does not confer legal status but does give recipients temporary protection from deportation and permission to legally work. Grisham said 122 recipients "are negatively impacted every single day" because their protection expires.
Link sought to budget bill
Democrats have tried to tie DACA legislation to the government budget bill. Funding for the government runs out next Friday, so either the bill or a temporary extension must be passed by then to avoid a government shutdown.
Democrats, whose votes will be needed to pass a budget in the Senate, have vowed to vote against any spending bill that does not include a DACA fix.
Representative Carlos Curbelo, a Republican from Florida and the sponsor of the Recognizing America's Children Act, one of the possible legislative fixes for the DACA program, said he would not "support any appropriations bill that funds the government beyond December 31st unless we get this DACA issue resolved."
"It doesn't have to be included in the spending bill, but it has to get done. Again, as long as it gets done, I'm OK with a stand-alone bill. If it's part of another package, let's just get it done," Curbelo said.
Ryan has said the fix to the DACA program should "be considered on its own merits" and not as part of a larger spending bill.