WASHINGTON - U.S. lawmakers are running short on time to agree on a plan to fund the government and achieve a bipartisan immigration deal.
The budget battle could lead to a government shutdown next week, and Democrats in Congress want any funding agreement to include a legislative fix for the more than 800,000 young undocumented immigrants who have been protected from deportation by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.
On Wednesday, a group of House Republicans introduced a bill that would institute a much more wide-ranging immigration reform that includes a three-year renewable status for those covered under DACA, but offer no path for any kind of permanent residency.
The bill led by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Robert Goodlatte would also restrict relatives of immigrants from coming to the United States, mandate that companies use an electronic system to verify the immigration status of employees, reduce overall immigration, and boost the number of green cards for skilled workers.
"The bill we’re proposing is strong but it's also a fair bill – it's strong because it gets serious about enforcing our immigration laws and making it tougher for people to enter our country illegally and stay here," said Rep. Raul Labrador, one of the Republican co-sponsors.
A White House statement said President Donald Trump is "grateful" for the introduction of the bill and that it would accomplish his "core priorities for the American people." The measure would also authorize construction of a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, something Trump told reporters Wednesday is a necessary part of any immigration plan.
But the legislation seems unlikely to make it to Trump's desk. It would need some Democratic support in the Senate and the party has focused much of its immigration energy on finding a solution for the immigrants who came to the United States illegally when they were children.
Trump in September rescinded the DACA program and gave Congress until March to figure out how to address those immigrants, sometimes referred to as "Dreamers."
"The president agreed we ought to do it in two phases because we have an emergency," said Rep. Steny Hoyer. "We can’t wait until March. We need to make sure they’re protected and included and welcomed now."
A group of 100 chief executive officers sent a letter Wednesday to Republican and Democratic leaders in Congress calling on them to immediately pass a permanent, bipartisan legislative solution to allow the young undocumented immigrants to continue living and working in the United States.
"While delay or inaction will cause significant negative impact to businesses, hundreds of thousands of deserving young people across the country are counting on you to work in a bipartisan way to pass permanent legislative protection for Dreamers without further delay," the letter said.
Those signing it include the CEOs of Facebook, General Motors, Apple, Target, Amazon, Google and the National Association of Manufacturers.
A federal judge in California issued a ruling Tuesday temporarily blocking the Trump administration from ending DACA, saying the program should remain in place until legal challenges against Trump's decision are resolved.
Tuesday's order specifies that the terms of the DACA program are to be maintained for anyone who was already covered by the program before Trump's September action, and that those people are allowed to renew their enrollments.
But the government does not have to process any new applications for people trying to enroll under DACA for the first time, and remains free to deport anyone it determines to be a national security or public safety risk.
Trump rejected the court ruling Wednesday, saying the judicial system is "broken and unfair."