Washington (AFP) – US Republican leaders on Thursday appeared to stave off a party revolt over immigration, but conservatives and centrists remained divided on a potential pathway to citizenship for young people who entered the country illegally as children.
House Speaker Paul Ryan led a two-hour closed-door caucus meeting on the issue, which included how to resolve the years-old dispute over so-called “Dreamer” immigrants who are part of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.
Ryan said he would “work on a solution” with other Republicans aimed at resolving the longstanding issue, largely along the principles outlined by President Donald Trump earlier this year, which included boosted border security and substantial changes to legal immigration.
But he urged his members against joining Democrats who seek to use a rare procedural move, known as a discharge petition, that would force votes on immigration.
“Hopefully we can find a path ahead that is consistent with the four pillars that the president laid out and avoids a pointless discharge petition,” Ryan said.
Some 20 rebel Republicans have joined the Democrats’ effort. If just two or three more Republicans sign on, they will reach the 218 signatures needed to force immigration votes on the House floor late this month.
The Republican-led Congress failed earlier this year to pass immigration reform proposals, including one championed by Trump that would have resolved the legal status of 1.8 million immigrants.
With Republicans facing tough re-election prospects in November, pressure has built on lawmakers to work out a solution on immigration, with several moderates joining the effort to force a vote.
Several rank-and-file Republicans left Thursday’s meeting confident that the rebels were held at bay — at least temporarily.
But congressman Mark Meadows, chairman of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, stressed that divisions remained.
“There is no consensus,” he said.
The question of what a pathway to citizenship might look like for up to 1.8 million immigrants “remains still the most difficult issue,” Meadows said.
“Leadership will take all the input… and try to boil that down into a legislative framework in the coming days,” he added.
White House legislative director Marc Short, who sat in on the meeting, said the focus remained a bill that addressed Trump’s priorities.
“There are some tweaks to it, but it’s similar,” he told reporters.