Rep. Ryan doesn't assure passage of House immigration bill: 'Nothing's easy'

Thursday , June 14, 2018 - 9:10 AM

Mike DeBonis

(c) 2018, The Washington Post.

WASHINGTON - House Speaker Paul D. Ryan told a largely Latino audience Thursday that he remains committed to removing the threat of deportation now faced by young undocumented immigrants but stopped short of assuring that the House would pass legislation doing so.

“I want to begin by saying we all share a commitment to fixing this utterly broken immigration system, and we’ve got to find a way to do this,” Ryan, R-Wis., told the National Hispanic Prayer Breakfast in Washington. “Please know that we believe this.”

That repeats pledges of action that Ryan has consistently made - both after President Donald Trump’s election, following a campaign where he promised to crack down on illegal immigration, and later after Trump moved to cancel the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which protected young undocumented immigrants brought to the country as children.

But it remains unsettled whether the House can pass a DACA fix. A move by renegade Republican moderates to force votes on bipartisan bills that would likely pass with considerable Democratic support was short-circuited this week by Ryan and other GOP leaders who feared passage of those bills would anger conservative voters in an election year.

Instead, they have agreed to set up votes next week on competing conservative immigration bills. One includes hard-line provisions catering to the House GOP’s conservative wing; the other - which is still being written - will try to bridge the gap between conservatives and moderates.

Ryan made no assurances that bill would pass the House but said he was aiming to find a “lasting solution, not just some temporary patch” for DACA recipients.

“In the House, you know, nothing’s easy, but we’re bringing together lawmakers from across the spectrum,” he said. “We’ve been in meetings hour after hour, day after day or between moderates and conservatives to find a path forward. As a result, we’re going to have a debate, and we’re bringing votes to the floor of the House next week to try and begin this process of fixing this broken immigration system.”

Negotiators said Wednesday that a bill could be drafted by the end of the week, but several lawmakers involved in the discussion said that its release could be pushed to next week.

Conservatives remain skeptical of any bill that would offer a “special path” to citizenship to DACA recipients and other “dreamers.” Leaders of the conservative bloc said they were waiting to see a final bill before weighing in.

A discussion outline obtained by The Washington Post sketches out how DACA recipients could obtain permanent legal status - and eventually citizenship - under a Republican compromise.

A new immigrant visa would be created, open to DACA recipients and to the children of foreign nationals holding certain temporary visas. Those children must have lived in the United States continuously for 10 years.

After at least six years in temporary legal status, DACA recipients could apply for permanent residency. Those visas would be offset by canceling the existing Diversity Visa Program, which hands out 55,000 visas by lottery each year, and distributed according to a point system awarded, according to the summary, “for things such as education level, age, English proficiency and the salary that an employer is willing to pay.”

The outline also spells out other elements of a compromise, including language that would end the Trump administration’s recent decision to separate immigrant children from families when detained at the border and a safeguard to ensure that at least $25 billion is spent on a U.S.-Mexico border wall.

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