WASHINGTON, Dec 15 (Reuters) – More than 200 advocates from across the United States converged on Capitol Hill this week with an 11th-hour mission: convince lawmakers to grant citizenship to “Dreamer” immigrants ” who entered the United States illegally as children.
Addinelly Moreno Soto, a 31-year-old communications assistant who came to the United States from Mexico at age 3, went to the Capitol from San Antonio with her husband on Wednesday hoping to meet her state’s US Senator John Cornyn. The support of influential Republicans could help advance a measure that has eluded Congress for more than a decade – and looks set to fail again this year.
Cornyn was unable to meet with her and other Dreamer supporters from Texas, she said. One of his staff told them that Cornyn would have to review the text of any legislation before making a decision.
The year-end push comes as the window has nearly closed for Congress to reach a compromise to protect Dreamers, many of whom speak English and have jobs, families and children in the United States but do not have permanent status.
Supporters of the effort are pushing Congress to pass the legislation now that Democrats – who overwhelmingly support Dreamers – will cede control of the US House of Representatives to Republicans in January. Kevin McCarthy, the top Republican in the House, has said that the border must be secured before other immigration issues can be tackled.
About 594,000 Dreamers are enrolled in a 2012 program called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), which provides protection from deportation and work permits, but is currently subject to a legal challenge brought by Texas and other US states with attorneys Republican general.
US President Joe Biden, a Democrat who took office in 2021, promised during his campaign to protect Dreamers and their families after former Republican President Donald Trump tried to end DACA.
Moreno and her husband signed up for DACA in 2012. They now have two US citizen boys between the ages of two and three.
“How much further to prove ourselves – that we deserve to be here permanently?” Moreno said. “That’s the frustrating part. I have children. What about them?”
Senators Kyrsten Sinema, an independent from Arizona who recently left the Democratic Party, and Republican Thom Tillis of North Carolina, have worked on a plan in recent weeks to combine border restrictions with a path to citizenship for an estimated 2 million Dreamers, according to framework. potential legislation reviewed by Reuters.
But some House Democrats have expressed reservations about the Senate bill’s inclusion.
The Senate is split 50-50 with Vice President Kamala Harris as the tie vote. At least 10 Republicans would have to join Democrats to overcome a procedural hurdle that requires 60 votes to advance legislation in the Senate.
Lawmakers have a tight time frame with just over a week before Congress is expected to pass a roughly $1.7 trillion spending bill that would be the vehicle for the immigration deal, but leading Republicans have said it won’t happen.
“It’s not going anywhere,” Cornyn told Reuters this week, offering a more blunt assessment than his team.
On Thursday, a Senate aide and three other people with knowledge of the matter said Dreamer’s effort would not advance before the end of the year. The offices of Sinema and Tillis did not respond to requests for comment.
Democratic Senator Alex Padilla of California said he was frustrated and disappointed that the talks had not even progressed into legislation for senators to review.
Senator John Kennedy, a conservative Republican from Louisiana, said his party had lost confidence in the president’s willingness to secure the border amid record illegal crossings.
“President Biden’s administration is perfectly willing to open the border,” Kennedy said. “They’re happy to have all those people coming in and everyone knows that.”
A Biden administration official criticized Republicans for “finger-pointing” and attacking Biden’s record “while they themselves refuse to take the actual steps Congress needs to take to fix our broken immigration system.”
For Raul Perez, a 33-year-old man from Austin, Texas, who came to Washington, the prolonged uncertainty about his future and other dreamers was very frustrating.
“It’s been over a decade since DACA came out and we’re still in the same spot,” said Perez, who is part of the immigrant-youth advocacy group United We Dream. “We have to pass something now. We can’t wait to wait.”
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Reporting by Ted Hesson and Richard Cowan in Washington; Editing by Mary Milliken, Aurora Ellis and Lisa Shumaker
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