Democratic lawmakers are trying to find ways to force a vote on legislation to protect enrollees in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which safeguards almost 800,000 undocumented young people in the U.S. from deportation.
Democratic Representative Luis Gutierrez of Illinois said Friday at a news conference with fellow Democrats in Washington that if DACA-related legislation hasn't been passed by December, many Democrats will prevent passage of a bill to raise the country's debt ceiling.
"I urged, encouraged and pled with the Democratic leadership not to allow a vote on a continuing resolution on the funding of our government and not to allow a vote on raising the debt limit" unless the DACA issue is addressed, Gutierrez said.
House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer of Maryland and Representative Michelle Grisham of New Mexico, who chairs the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, announced Thursday evening that they were launching a petition to force a vote on the DACA issue. They would need a majority of House members to sign what is known as a discharge petition to allow the bill to bypass the committee process, which is where bills typically are written.
Because Democrats are in the minority in Congress, they would need at least some Republicans to support the measure for it to be successful.
As the majority party in both the House and Senate, Republicans have the power to decide which bills are brought to the floor for a vote.
House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin has vowed not to hold a vote on any immigration bill without the support of at least half of the Republican members of the House.
Senator Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York said earlier this week that his colleagues would exercise all available legislative maneuvers to ensure a DACA bill passes, including the possibility of attaching nonrelated items to the bill.
Lawmakers have six months to come up with a plan for the more than 800,000 people who have temporary legal status under the DACA program.
President Donald Trump has said he will let the program lapse in six months if lawmakers cannot come up with a solution.
"I think Congress really wants to do this," Trump said earlier this week, adding he would like immigration legislation that includes protection for the undocumented immigrants and "something where we have good border security."
Trump has pressed for tighter immigration controls and called for construction of a wall on the country's border with Mexico to thwart more migrants' entry into the country.
Many undocumented immigrants under DACA say they were brought to the United States as children by their parents who may have come illegally and that the United States is the only country they know.
VOA's Katherine Gypson contributed to this report.