House Democrats urged immediate action on the fate of 800,000 undocumented young people brought to the U.S. as children Monday, using an unusual procedural move that would force Republican leadership to bring a bill resolving their status up for a floor vote.
“This is our number one priority, it must be done and we should not wait until the last minute. We need to resolve the angst and anxiety of those young people and their families,” House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, a Democrat from Maryland, told reporters.
Democrats lined the aisles of the House floor, waiting their turn to sign a so-called discharge petition to bring the DREAM Act up for a vote. But it was unclear if they could convince enough of their Republican colleagues to sign on to reach the 218 signatures needed to trigger that vote.
President Donald Trump called on Congress to find a permanent solution to recipients of the Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program earlier this month, after rescinding an Obama administration measure protecting them.
Lawmakers from both parties have publically stated their support for finding a permanent legislative solution for the so-called DREAMers and polling finds that Americans overwhelmingly support that action.
But some Republican members of Congress object to the specifics of the DREAM Act, citing concerns about chain migration or granting amnesty to immigrants who have broken the law.
House Speaker Paul Ryan has said he supports resolving the status of DACA recipients but added any legislative solution must also address the root causes of illegal immigration.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi met with Trump earlier this month, working out a provisional deal to pass DACA legislation in return for increased border-security funding. Pelosi said Trump told her he would sign the DREAM Act into law if Congress passed it.
But the specifics of that deal would face a tough road in the House of Representatives where members of both parties will be conscious of having to answer to their constituents on contentious immigration issues.
House Democrats, fearing the issue would lose urgency, said the petition is needed to avoid the deportation of DACA recipients, also called DREAMers, when the program is phased out early next year.
“I urge all of my Republican colleagues who said they care about DREAMers, that they must solve this problem, they want to participate in a legislative fix – we have your opportunity,” Congressional Hispanic Caucus Chairwoman Michelle Lujan Grisham, a Democrat from New Mexico, said Monday.
The DACA issue could have a significant impact on Congress’ looming December budget negotiations if not resolved, Rep. Luis Gutierrez, a Democrat from Illinois and an outspoken supporter of so-called DREAMers, warned at a Capitol Hill rally Monday.
“Either you have the majority for your Republican budget by December 9th with your votes or you negotiate with the Democrats to get those votes on the basis of justice for our immigrant community,” Gutierrez said.
Senate solution introduced
Three Republican Senators announced the SUCCEED Act (Solution for Undocumented Children through Careers, Employment, Education, and Defending our Nation) in a Capitol Hill news conference Monday.
The legislative proposal is yet another option before the U.S. Senate and House that could resolve the status of DREAMers. If this bill passes, it would cover most current recipients of the DACA program, giving them “conditional permanent residency” for five years as long as they work, study or serve in the military.
“The president was very outspoken when I walked him through the details of it, he said that’s exactly the kind of solution that I think would work and would be a good option to be able to accomplish,” Senator James Lankford, a Republican from Oklahoma and one of the bill’s co-sponsors, told reporters.
Lankford said he had spoken with the president three weeks ago while the bill text was still being finalized.