Speaker Paul Ryan promises compromise to protect Dreamers

Young people on the Mexico side of the border near the steel fence in Tijuana, Mexico, Dec. 16, 2017. The "Dreamers" sign on one woman's blouse shows support for young immigrants trying to better their future. (CNS photo/Jorge Duenes, Reuters)

Plans to force a House floor vote on legislation to protect Dreamers have been postponed until Tuesday, according to The New York Times. On Friday, U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan promised compromise legislation to bridge the impasse between moderate and conservative Republicans.

“The next step is to start putting pen to paper so we can get legislation to the floor,” Mr. Ryan told reporters after a lengthy meeting with Republican leaders, the Times reports.

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For months, a group of moderate congressional Republicans has been trying to force a House floor debate on Dreamers, undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as children. If a May 9 discharge petition receives support from 218 representatives, it will lead to a vote on four bills that address security concerns as well as the status of Dreamers. Currently, the petition has 215 signatures.

“At least [the discharge petition] would get the discussion moving forward,” Bishop Daniel Flores of Brownsville, Tex., told America. Bishop Flores was among those credited for persuading Representatives Filemon Vela, a Democrat from Brownsville, and Vicente Gonzalez, a Democrat from McAllen, Tex., to sign the petition this week.

“The next step is to start putting pen to paper so we can get legislation to the floor,” Speaker of the House Paul Ryan told reporters after a lengthy meeting with Republican leaders.

“We do pray, but we also have to work realistically with what the congressional situation is,” Bishop Flores said. “Congress needs to do its work. These kids that are here have made this country a better place.”

Dreamers have been in limbo since the Trump administration announced its intention to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Program last fall. Known as DACA, the Obama administration program had protected an estimated 690,000 Dreamers from deportation and had given them permission to work since 2012. Court decisions have blocked the Trump administration from ending DACA for now.

The discharge petition would lead to a lesser-used “queen of the hill” process that would require debate on the four bills in one day. The bill with the most votes above 218 would then go to the Senate for debate.

The four bills include: the Dream Act, which provides a path to citizenship for Dreamers with no border security funding; the United and Securing America Act, which includes funding for border security along with a path to citizenship for Dreamers; and the Securing America’s Future Act, which provides temporary legalization for Dreamers and more robust security measures. The fourth bill up for debate would be chosen by Mr. Ryan.

Dreamers have been in limbo since the Trump administration announced its intention to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Program last fall.

The U.S. bishops support the Dream Act and the more recent U.S.A. Act, a bipartisan bill introduced by Reps. Will Hurd, a Republican from Texas; Pete Aguilar, a Democrat from California; and Jeff Denham, a Republican from California, in January. In addition to relief for Dreamers, the U.S.A. Act would fund new border security technology, increase the number of immigration judges and address root causes of unauthorized migration from Central America.

“We do have a sovereign border, but we also have a call to recognize that there are people who are fleeing to this country to save their own lives,” Bishop Flores said. “We have been two sovereign nations living side by side for 200 years. A wall is unnecessary.”

While some may see the church’s involvement as political, Bishop Flores said the bishops must uphold Catholic social teaching. He noted that the bishops were also vocal during the Affordable Care Act debate.

The church views legislation with the good of the human person in mind, he said. That is true of pro-life issues as well as immigration, including the bills being considered in the discharge petition.

“It strikes people as unusual, as if the church’s position was determined by one political party or another. It’s not,” Bishop Flores said. “It’s the Lord who asks this of us. The Lord had a way of irritating a lot of people on a lot of different sides. We should not be surprised that the church does so as well.”

The church views legislation with the good of the human person in mind, he said. That is true of pro-life issues as well as immigration, including the bills being considered in the discharge petition. “If we’re not going to stand up for this, who will?” Bishop Flores said.

A CBS News poll conducted in January found that 87 percent of U.S. adults believed Dreamers should be allowed to stay in the United States. The Center for Migration Studies in New York estimates that there are more than 2.2 million Dreamers in the United States, though fewer than half are DACA recipients.

“At least there’s some movement,” Bishop Flores said of the discharge petition. “In the end, maybe it will work, maybe it won’t. But we have to try.”

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