Republicans Make Vague Promises To Protect Dreamers Endangered By Trump Decision

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WASHINGTON ― Members of Congress promised on Tuesday to work on legislative solutions to protect young undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as children, after President Donald Trump followed through on a campaign promise to put them back at risk of deportation.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced Tuesday morning that the Trump administration is ending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which allowed nearly 800,000 so-called “Dreamers” to get two-year work permits and reprieve from deportation. When their permits expire, DACA recipients will now be unable to work legally and could be detained and deported under Trump’s efforts to expel more undocumented immigrants.

The administration’s directive gives Congress six months to reach a deal to address the status of Dreamers. But so far, Republicans have offered vague proposals or prior legislative options that don’t have a clear shot at passing.

Calling DACA a “clear abuse of executive authority,” House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) said in a statement that “it is my hope” Congress “will be able to find consensus on a permanent legislative solution.”

“The president’s announcement does not revoke permits immediately, and it is important that those affected have clarity on how this interim period will be carried out. At the heart of this issue are young people who came to this country through no fault of their own, and for many of them it’s the only country they know,” Ryan said.

But other than a few who have signed on to bills with Democrats that would offer legal status to Dreamers, most Republicans have obstructed immigration bills for years, and their vague statements of support for Dreamers don’t mean they’ll actually push for legislation that stands a chance of passing.

And even if they do, it’s not clear that Trump, for all his calls for Congress to act, would even sign a bill to protect Dreamers without extreme conditions such as slashing legal immigration. The urgency to act is there, but so are the difficult politics of immigration that have led to past failures on bills to provide legal status to Dreamers.

Ahead of the announcement, Trump tweeted that Congress should “get ready to do your job.”

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Later Tuesday, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders placed the onus on Congress to find “a permanent solution done through the legislative process,” providing few details on what kind of bill Trump would want to sign into law.

She did, however, level a threat against lawmakers who can’t get the job done.

“If Congress doesn’t want to do the job they were elected to do, maybe they should get out of the way and let someone else do it,” she told reporters at Tuesday’s White House press briefing.

Trump tweeted on Tuesday evening that he would revisit the issue if Congress failed to act on DACA.

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Many Republicans have voted in the past to end DACA ― likely an easier vote under former President Barack Obama, who created the program and would not sign into law any bill to terminate the protections. Most of them also opposed previous efforts to provide reprieve to Dreamers, such as the Dream Act, a bill first introduced 16 years ago that would allow undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as children to gain legal status and eventual citizenship.

Republicans have multiple options if they want to sign on to current legislation to protect Dreamers. There is a 2017 iteration of the Dream Act in both chambers; the House bill has two Republican sponsors and the Senate bill has three Republican sponsors.

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said Tuesday that he plans to re-double his efforts on the Dream Act, criticizing Trump’s announcement as “the wrong approach to immigration policy.”

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House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Tuesday called on Ryan to “bring the Dream Act to the floor for a vote without delay.”

GOP members have also created what they are calling a more conservative version of the Dream Act. It would provide a path to citizenship to Dreamers with some restrictions, such as eligibility for those who entered the country before they were 16 years old, versus the current cutoff of 18.

In the House, Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-Fla.) introduced the Recognizing America’s Children, or RAC, Act with support from 18 fellow Republicans. Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) said Tuesday that he is planning a similar bill in the Senate.

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Republicans may try to tie legislation to help Dreamers to other measures, such as funding for Trump’s border wall and increasing other deportation efforts. While Democrats have supported measures coupling legal status for undocumented immigrants and enforcement in the past, they have said they would not allow Dreamers to be used as a bargaining chip.

On Tuesday, Sanders would not say whether Trump wants funding for the wall included in a bill addressing DACA recipients. She also would not say whether he would sign a “standalone” bill, without any other conditions.

Yet she reiterated that Congress should pursue “comprehensive” legislation that is not “a one-piece fix” — again providing few details on what that would entail, placing the ball squarely in Congress’ court.

This article was updated with comments from White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders.

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April 2015

At an event hosted by Texas Patriots PAC: “Everything’s coming across the border: the illegals, the cars, the whole thing. It’s like a big mess. Blah. It’s like vomit.”
At an event hosted by Texas Patriots PAC: “Everything’s coming across the border: the illegals, the cars, the whole thing. It’s like a big mess. Blah. It’s like vomit.”

June 2015

At a speech announcing his campaign: "When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re not sending you. They’re not sending you. They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people."
At a speech announcing his campaign: "When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re not sending you. They’re not sending you. They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people."

August 2015

On NBC's "Meet the Press": “We’re going to keep the families together, we have to keep the families together, but they have to go." 
On NBC's "Meet the Press": “We’re going to keep the families together, we have to keep the families together, but they have to go." 

September 2015

On CBS's "60 Minutes": “We’re rounding ‘em up in a very humane way, in a very nice way. And they’re going to be happy because they want to be legalized. And, by the way, I know it doesn’t sound nice. But not everything is nice.”
On CBS's "60 Minutes": “We’re rounding ‘em up in a very humane way, in a very nice way. And they’re going to be happy because they want to be legalized. And, by the way, I know it doesn’t sound nice. But not everything is nice.”

November 2015

On MSNBC's "Morning Joe": “You are going to have a deportation force, and you are going to do it humanely." 
On MSNBC's "Morning Joe": “You are going to have a deportation force, and you are going to do it humanely." 

February 2016

At a GOP primary debate: “We have at least 11 million people in this country that came in illegally. They will go out. They will come back ― some will come back, the best, through a process.”
At a GOP primary debate: “We have at least 11 million people in this country that came in illegally. They will go out. They will come back ― some will come back, the best, through a process.”

March 2016

At a press conference when asked if he would consider allowing undocumented immigrants to stay: "We either have a country or we don’t. We either have a country or we don’t. We have borders or we don’t have borders. And at this moment, the answer is absolutely not.”
At a press conference when asked if he would consider allowing undocumented immigrants to stay: "We either have a country or we don’t. We either have a country or we don’t. We have borders or we don’t have borders. And at this moment, the answer is absolutely not.”

April 2016

At an event hosted by NBC's "Today Show": “They’re going to go, and we’re going to create a path where we can get them into this country legally, OK? But it has to be done legally. ... They’re going to go, and then come back and come back legally.”
At an event hosted by NBC's "Today Show": “They’re going to go, and we’re going to create a path where we can get them into this country legally, OK? But it has to be done legally. ... They’re going to go, and then come back and come back legally.”

July 2016

At the Republican National Convention: "Tonight, I want every American whose demands for immigration security have been denied ― and every politician who has denied them ― to listen very closely to the words I am about to say. On January 21st of 2017, the day after I take the oath of office, Americans will finally wake up in a country where the laws of the United States are enforced."
At the Republican National Convention: "Tonight, I want every American whose demands for immigration security have been denied ― and every politician who has denied them ― to listen very closely to the words I am about to say. On January 21st of 2017, the day after I take the oath of office, Americans will finally wake up in a country where the laws of the United States are enforced."

September 2016

At a rally: “Anyone who has entered the United States illegally is subject to deportation. That is what it means to have laws and to have a country. Otherwise we don’t have a country.”
At a rally: “Anyone who has entered the United States illegally is subject to deportation. That is what it means to have laws and to have a country. Otherwise we don’t have a country.”

September 2016

On "The Dr. Oz Show": “Well, under my plan the undocumented or, as you would say, illegal immigrant wouldn’t be in the country. They only come in the country legally.”
On "The Dr. Oz Show": “Well, under my plan the undocumented or, as you would say, illegal immigrant wouldn’t be in the country. They only come in the country legally.”

This article originally appeared on HuffPost.

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