A group of Republican lawmakers in the House is demanding that Congress pass a legislative replacement for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program before the end of the year, diverging from other GOP lawmakers who say the bill isn’t a high priority.
In a letter sent Tuesday to House Speaker Paul Ryan, the 34 pro-DACA Republicans said lawmakers must act “immediately” to craft a permanent legislative solution.
“We are compelled to act immediately because many DACA recipients are about to lose or have already lost their permits in the wake of the program’s rescission,” the Republican lawmakers wrote. “Not acting is creating understandable uncertainty and anxiety amongst immigrant communities.”
The pronouncement, which comes as lawmakers are wrangling with a major tax overhaul and negotiations for the 2018 budget, threatens to widen the divide in the Republican caucus over how and when to address the DACA question. Ryan and House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy have said the true deadline for passing a DACA fix is March 5, the date the program officially sunsets according to a Trump administration order.
With Tuesday’s letter, the 34 Republicans, most of whom are moderates from swing districts, have aligned more closely with House Democrats on the issue than with conservatives in the Republican caucus and party leadership.
Most Democrats are backing the Dream Act, a bill that would offer a path to citizenship to more than a million younger illegal immigrants. Some Democratic lawmakers, including Dream Act co-sponsor Sen. Dick Durbin, say they will use the threat of a government shutdown to force Republicans include DACA protections in a must-pass spending bill.
The letter to Ryan doesn’t back a specific piece of legislation or endorse the idea of shutting down the government if lawmakers don’t address DACA amnesty in the spending bill.
On Monday, Texas Sen. John Cornyn called Democrats’ demands a “hysterical and cynical ploy” to cram a DACA fix into an unrelated spending bill. Cornyn has called for a long-term solution for the nearly 800,000 DACA recipients, some of whom have started to lose their protections, but has said the fix will have to wait until after Republicans address tax and spending bills.
Other Republican leaders have said DACA amnesty must be accompanied by deeper immigration reforms and enhanced border security measures. Last week, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnel said elements of a bill favored by immigration hawks, the RAISE Act, should be incorporated into a DACA fix.
“I’m in favor of doing something on the DACA front,” the Kentucky Republican told Fox News’ Laura Ingraham. “But I don’t think we ought to just do that. Chain migration, doing something about the diversity visa lottery, there are plenty of changes to the legal immigration system that should be added to the DACA fix that we do.
The 34 House Republicans rejected that approach Tuesday, arguing the DACA issue should be taken up separately from other immigration and border security policies.
“We all agree that our border must be enforced … and our broken immigration system reformed, but in this moment we must address the urgent matter before us in a balanced approach that does not harm valuable sectors of our economy nor the lives of these hard-working young people,” they wrote.
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