WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan on Thursday said he wants a bipartisan immigration bill enacted before November congressional elections by addressing young illegal “Dreamer” immigrants as well as border security issues.
“I want to fix this problem, so I would like to have an immigration vote before the midterms,” Ryan told a news conference,
His comments came a day after a breakaway group of House Republicans attempted to force action on legislation protecting so-called Dreamers - young immigrants brought into the United States illegally when they were children - from deportation.
Ryan has previously expressed support for helping Dreamers. But he has not given the go-ahead for debating any bill, even though public opinion polls show broad support in the country for helping Dreamers.
The youths had won temporary protections in 2012 from Democratic then-President Barack Obama.
But last September Republican President Donald Trump ordered Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program terminated on March 5, 2018. Court battles have delayed the end of DACA, leaving hundreds of thousands of the immigrants in limbo.
The Senate in February failed in an attempt to pass legislation giving permanent protections for Dreamers that would allow them to live and work legally in the United States and possibly even win citizenship.
Now, a small group of House Republicans - many of them moderates and many with large Hispanic constituencies - are clamoring to revive legislation.
On Wednesday, they outlined a plan to force a debate in the full House sometime this summer on four competing bills that would give Dreamers varying levels of legal immigration status, with some of the bills also expanding security along the southwestern border with Mexico.
There are now 18 House Republicans, of 236 total, who have formally signed a petition that would force a debate on immigration legislation. If they get seven more signatures, their leaders are banking on all 193 Democrats to climb on board, providing enough support to force a floor debate. One Democrat so far has signed the petition.
Whichever of the four bills got the most votes from a majority of House members would then advance to the Senate. Any legislation passed by the Senate would have to be signed by Trump to become law.
(Adds latest count of Republican support for debate, details.)
Reporting by Susan Cornwell and Richard Cowan; witing by Susan Heavey; editing by Jonathan Oatis