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Push to protect ‘Dreamers’ from Trump gains new GOP supporters

By Laura Litvan Bloomberg

WASHINGTON – A group of House Republicans is pushing President-elect Donald Trump to keep in place Obama administration protections for about 750,000 young illegal immigrants, joining with Democrats on legislation to extend a shield on their deportations for another three years.

The legislation, introduced Friday, is a companion to a Senate measure advanced by Democrat Dick Durbin of Illinois and Republican Lindsey Graham of South Carolina. Both bills signal bipartisan unrest over Trump’s campaign pledge to reverse President Barack Obama’s executive orders on deportations, which include protections for young adults brought to the U.S. by their parents when they were children.

While Trump has since said he wants to deport criminals who are illegal immigrants and has promised some solution for the younger immigrants known as “Dreamers,” he has provided no specifics about his intentions.

“The time to act on this is now,” Rep. Mike Coffman, a Colorado Republican, said of the proposed extension. “This sends a strong message not just to our leadership but to the incoming administration.”

He was joined by two Florida Republicans – Ileana Ros Lehtinen and Carlos Curbelo – on legislation also led by Democrats who seek aid for the immigrants, including Luis Gutierrez of Illinois. All three of the Republicans are from House districts that have heavy concentrations of Latino voters and they all overcame re-election challenges where they had to contend with Trump’s campaign promises on immigration. Trump’s pledges included building a wall at the U.S.-Mexico border and returning 11 million undocumented immigrants to their home countries.

The young immigrants at issue provided information including fingerprints and relatives’ home addresses when they applied for protection under the president’s 2012 executive order, known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. They received renewable, two-year work permits and Social Security cards as part of the program.

Obama took his action after Congress stalled for years on legislation called the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act, or DREAM Act, which would have provided a path to legal status.

Supporters of the young immigrants are concerned that the information they gave to the government could be used to expel them from the U.S. under a Trump administration. Trump has said since the election that his chief intention is to deport criminals, which he estimates to be about 3 million of the illegal immigrant population.

At a CNN town hall Thursday night, House Speaker Paul Ryan said there are no plans for a “deportation force” after Trump is inaugurated. He also said there are ongoing talks between congressional leaders and Trump’s transition team on an appropriate policy for the young immigrants, adding that all sides want a “good, humane solution.”

Curbelo said the support for the legislation runs deep in the House, if Republican leaders were to take the unlikely step of putting it to a vote. Most House Democrats support it, and he said he estimates that at least 60 Republicans would back it.

“There are many, many Republicans and Democrats in this Congress who want to do right by these young people,” he said.

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