WASHINGTON – Activists joined business and religious leaders Friday in urging Congress to pass bipartisan legislation this year to protect some 800,000 young immigrants brought illegally to the United States as children.
“It will take several months for the government to ramp up again to implement whatever Congress decides to pass,” said Theresa Cardinal Brown, director of immigration at the Bipartisan Policy Center, a Washington think tank. “There will be a gap of time in which these individuals are not able to work.”
The young immigrants are now protected from deportation under an Obama-era program known as the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA. President Donald Trump plans to end the program and has given Congress until March to come up with a fix.
Speaker Paul Ryan has said he does not see the need to act before March.
“Do we have to have a DACA resolution? Yes, we do,” he said Thursday. “The deadline’s March, as far as I understand it. We’ve got other deadlines in front of that, like fiscal year deadlines and appropriation deadlines.”
Representatives of the Bipartisan Policy Center were joined at a news conference with leaders of other organizations including the Service Employees International Union, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
Their request came one day after Rep. Mark Amodei, R-Nev., joined a long-shot legislative push to bring a vote to the floor by year’s end by circumventing congressional leaders, who normally decide which matters receive votes. Amodei signed a “discharge petition,” a seldom-used and rarely successful maneuver that forces a vote on a bill if enough lawmakers sign.
“I’d rather be criticized for attempting to move an issue toward a solution, than watching nothing happen on issues for years,” Adomei said in a statement.
As of Friday, 196 lawmakers – overwhelmingly Democrats – had signed the petition. A majority of the House membership, now at 434, is needed to bring the measure to the House floor.
Rep. Rodney Davis, R-Ill., chairman of the newly formed Republican Main Street Caucus, said its roughly 70 members are working on a letter to be sent to their conference leadership “to show their strong support for solving the DACA issue and that we believe the House should address it now, rather than later.”
House Democrats have said they won’t support a critical spending bill this month needed to keep the government open unless the DACA issue is resolved.
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