Top House leaders plan to huddle Wednesday to begin discussing legislation that would provide protections to nearly 700,000 “dreamers” at risk of losing their legal status in six months if Congress fails to act.
House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) and House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) plan to meet with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), House Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.) and the leaders of the congressional Asian, Black and Hispanic caucuses to discuss potential debate of the Dream Act, a bill that would grant legal protections to the roughly 690,000 people currently enrolled in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, the Obama-era executive action that protects undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States as children.
“The speaker has said he wants Congress to address DACA as the president has called for, but he has not endorsed any one measure and has said border security will need to be a part of the solution,” Ryan’s spokeswoman, AshLee Strong, said in an email confirming the meeting.
The meeting, also confirmed by several other aides in both parties, is a signal that congressional leaders are indeed trying to build support for a broader plan that would pair some kind of legislation to deal with dreamers — the common term for DACA recipients — with a plan to expand security along the U.S.-Mexico border.
The meeting will come a day after President Trump’s top legislative affairs aide signaled that the White House may back off its calls to pair funding for border wall construction with a dreamers relief bill, signaling that the emotionally charged issue may prove easier to resolve than initially thought.
Pelosi and her lieutenants had requested a meeting with Ryan shortly after Trump decided to end the DACA program in March of next year unless Congress can resolve the issue.
She told reporters Tuesday that House Democrats are quickly coalescing around legislation that would grant legal protections to DACA recipients and set them on a years-long course to apply for U.S. citizenship.
The Dream Act is co-sponsored by Democrats and Republicans in the House and Senate, including Reps. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-Calif.) and Mike Coffman (R-Colo.) and Sens. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) and Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.) and Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.).
Other legislation, including the Bridge Act, which is sponsored primarily by Coffman, Flake and Graham, enjoys broader Democratic support and also would lay the groundwork for most DACA recipients to earn legal residency.
But Coffman said Tuesday that the Bridge Act is only a last resort if a broad deal to couple legal protections for dreamers with border security enhancements falls apart.
“Wouldn’t it make sense to go for a permanent solution this time? And so, I think that’s the preferred route as a permanent solution. The Bridge Act would be viable only if that fails,” Coffman said during an event hosted by the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute.