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Monday was supposed to be the deadline for Congress to get its act together and find a way for 690,000 young immigrants to avoid potential deportation.
But lawmakers have at least a few more months to pass a law as the court system continues to determine the legality of President Donald Trump’s decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.
For Miami Republicans, caught between a national party that is agitating for stricter immigration laws and a diverse constituency back home, the delay on DACA gives them more time to find a compromise but also keeps thousands of their constituents in limbo.
“It’s good news for people in the DACA program because they can continue renewing their permits,” Miami Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo said. “I have mixed feelings on what it means for us here because we know this institution [Congress] sometimes only works as deadlines approach and now there isn’t a deadline. Now, on the other hand, it gives us more time, especially here in the House, to work towards that consensus position that has eluded both the House and Senate.”
Curbelo and Miami Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen said Republican leaders need to come up with a solution, though the sole immigration bill currently being considered by House leadership is a conservative plan that Curbelo and Ros-Lehtinen don’t support. The U.S. Senate tried and failed to pass a slew of immigration bills last month.
“I’m incredibly disappointed that the leadership in the House and Senate have failed to find a legislative solution to protect our DREAMers,” Ros-Lehtinen said in a statement. “While a court decision has halted the Trump administration’s plan to begin deporting DACA recipients, circumstances can and do change thus Congress should not rest on this one decision. We should take action now.”
Ros-Lehtinen has long been a proponent of Dream Act legislation, a bill that would protect DACA recipients and DACA-eligible young people who didn’t sign up for the Obama-era program from deportation and give them a path to citizenship. Ros-Lehtinen and Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard, D-Calif., have garnered 200 cosponsors for their bill, though only four Republicans other than Ros-Lehtinen have signed on.
The urgency to find a solution for DACA recipients has cooled after the Supreme Court declined to hear a fast-tracked appeal by the Justice Department that could have ended the program by March 5, and after the mass shooting in Parkland reignited a national debate on guns, led by high school students who are urging lawmakers to act now.
Curbelo said there’s “action” going on behind the scenes with regards to DACA, though he declined to divulge details.
“I think you could see something in a couple of weeks, three weeks here in the House,” Curbelo said last week, adding that any immigration proposal attached to a spending bill to keep the government running past March 23rd will likely be a “punt” that delays action.
“I have a feeling that anything that goes with the [spending bill] is going to be a punt,” Curbelo said. “So I’m not excited about that. That’s not my goal.”
Immigration activists have continued to hound Curbelo, who represents a Miami-to-Key West district that favors Democrats, on his immigration position after he voted for a short-term spending bill earlier this year that did not include an immigration bill. Last week, a group showed up at his house.
Curbelo hasn’t signed on to the Dream Act, but has said he would vote for it.
Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio, who voted with the majority of his party on all four failed immigration bills last month, said one possible short-term solution would be to codify DACA into law and having DACA recipients renew their status every three years, combined with additional funding for border security.
“Once the president sets the bar at 1.8 million for citizenship, that’s going to be the floor, not the ceiling, for Democrats,” Rubio said last month. “I think that reset the whole dynamic. It does create a level of uncertainly that I wish we could have avoided.”
Miami Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, an ally of GOP leadership who has attended multiple high-stakes immigration meetings with President Trump, said he won’t stop trying to come up with a solution that can save DACA recipients from deportation while also gaining the support of Republicans in Congress and Trump.
“This issue will not go away, nor will it solve itself,” Diaz-Balart said in a statement. “I have never stopped working on finding a permanent solution for DREAMers, and I continue to work on a legislative fix with colleagues from both sides of the aisle on a bill that actually has a chance at passing both Chambers and signed into law by the President.”