In a show of force to House Speaker Paul Ryan and Republican leadership, more than a dozen Republicans from around the country are demanding a legislative solution by the end of 2017 for 800,000 young immigrants brought to the U.S. illegally by their parents.
There is less than four months left for Congress to find a solution for the young immigrants known as Dreamers before President Donald Trump will cancel an Obama-era executive order known as DACA that allowed Dreamers to be protected from deportation.
The 13 Republicans who gathered on Thursday want to vote on a bill now.
“The reality is that these young people with DACA status are already being harmed today,” said Rep. Dan Newhouse, R-Wash., noting that over 22,000 DACA recipients missed an October deadline to renew their status and could be fired from their jobs immediately. “Everyday that Congress fails to act, every time that Congress kicks this can down the road, people, real people, are hurt.”
The group, which included conservative Texas Rep. Joe Barton along with moderate Miami Republicans Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Carlos Curbelo, wasn’t the typical cast of characters at an immigration news conference on Capitol Hill.
While Ros-Lehtinen and Curbelo are well-versed on immigration issues and delivered their talking points in English and Spanish, other members at the news conference on Capitol Hill tripped up when reciting details about DACA recipients. Pennsylvania Rep. Ryan Costello referred to DACA recipients as “those who were born here” before being corrected by Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif.
The pro-Dreamer Republicans also included those who are trying to hold on to their seats in the face of well-funded Democratic challengers ahead of the 2018 elections. Issa ranks as the most vulnerable House incumbent in a recent analysis by Roll Call, while New York Rep. John Faso, who also spoke at the press conference, ranks third on Roll Call’s list.
But the Miami Republicans will need every possible Republican on board, even if their support is driven by political calculations, to convince Ryan to put a bill on the floor. Certain conservative Republican members are poised to vote against any proposal that expands immigration protections, but multiple Republicans at the press conference said that a legislative solution for Dreamers would easily garner over 300 votes in the 435 member House of Representatives.
“Sometimes in the press you read that Republicans don’t want to help young people to realize their dreams, but here you have living proof of why that is not true,” Ros-Lehtinen said. “There’s a whole bunch of us that want to make this dream a reality.”
Ros-Lehtinen, who is retiring in 2018, has said that there is an 80 percent chance that Congress or the White House will find a solution for Dreamers.
As Ros-Lehtinen delivered her remarks in Spanish on Thursday, the other Republicans stood and nodded silently, unaccustomed to the Miami tradition of politicians switching between the two languages at press events.
“We all respond by saying sí, right?” Michigan Rep. Fred Upton said when Ros-Lehtinen finished, prompting laughter.
The members on Thursday stressed that their preference is to pass whatever bill can get the most support, whether that is a version of the Dream Act or a bill sponsored by Curbelo that’s been billed as a “conservative alternative” to the Dream Act.
“There are a number of different groups that are working on this issue,” Curbelo said, adding that Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer confirmed to him Wednesday that bipartisan conversations on Dreamers are also taking place in the Senate.
Miami Republican Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, who wasn’t a part of the news conference, is part of an informal working group established by Ryan to find a solution for Dreamers. That group includes a number of conservative Republicans who have traditionally opposed measures to expand immigrant protections.
“I think you’re going to see a number of different ideas emerge and people are going to take a crack at a compromise,” Curbelo said.
Republicans who attended Thursday’s DACA press conference:
Rep. Dan Newhouse (R-WA)
Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL)
Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX)
Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI)
Rep. Don Bacon (R-NE)
Rep. Peter King (R-NY)
Rep. Ryan Costello (R-PA)
Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA)
Rep. Leonard Lance (R-NJ)
Rep. John Faso (R-NY)
Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA)
Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-FL)
Rep. Erik Paulsen (R-MN)