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GOP leadership urging 'no' vote on Dream Act to protect young immigrants from deportation

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House Minority Whip Steve Scalise is urging all Republicans to vote against the Dream Act in a further sign that bipartisanship will be hard to come by on immigration issues, as the GOP continues to pummel President Biden for the surge of migrants at the southern border. 

Scalise, R-La., sent a memo to his GOP colleagues Wednesday blasting Biden’s “open borders and lax enforcement” and arguing Republicans should not be providing “amnesty” to undocumented immigrants.

“The bill would only worsen the flow of illegal immigrates to the U.S.,” Scalise wrote to his colleagues. 

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Democrats, however, were hoping for some bipartisan cooperation to protect so-called Dreamers, who came to the United States illegally as children and in some cases have no recollection of their country of birth. Protections for Dreamers from deportation have typically garnered some bipartisan support.

Rep. Steve Scalise, R-La., the House minority whip, gestures as he criticizes Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York, during a news conference at the Capitol in Washington, Tuesday, March 9, 2021. Rep. Ashley Hinson, R-Iowa, joins at right. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Rep. Steve Scalise, R-La., the House minority whip, gestures as he criticizes Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York, during a news conference at the Capitol in Washington, Tuesday, March 9, 2021. Rep. Ashley Hinson, R-Iowa, joins at right. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
(AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

In 2019, seven Republicans joined with all 230 Democrats in passing the American Dream and Promise Act. The legislation, however, died in the Senate. 

“Seven Republicans supported this in the last Congress. I hope more will do so in this Congress,” House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said Tuesday noting the public support for protecting Dreamers from deportation. 

“Between 75% and 85% of the American people think it makes no sense to send the Dreamers … to a country that they don’t know,” Hoyer said. “This is their country.”

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But Republicans have made fighting the Biden administration and Democrats on immigration a top priority in recent weeks as a surge of migrants, especially unaccompanied minors, have arrived at the border. House Republicans have traveled to the Mexican border, urged lawsuits and held numerous press conferences – blaming Biden’s rhetoric and executive orders on immigration for the big uptick in arrivals the White House refused to dub a “crisis.”

UNITED STATES - JULY 22: House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., speaks during the House Democrats press conference on Wednesday, July 22, 2020, on legislation to remove the bust of Chief Justice Roger Taney and Confederate Statues from the U.S. Capitol. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)

UNITED STATES – JULY 22: House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., speaks during the House Democrats press conference on Wednesday, July 22, 2020, on legislation to remove the bust of Chief Justice Roger Taney and Confederate Statues from the U.S. Capitol. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)

The House is set to vote on two immigration bills on Thursday, one to provide a pathway to citizenship for so-called “Dreamers” and a second to provide legal status to certain migrant agriculture workers. 

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The Dream Act legislation would allow conditional permanent resident status for 10 years to those who arrived in the United States illegally as a minor and those with deferred enforced departure (DED) status or temporary protected status (TPS). The immigrants would have to meet qualifying requirements, such as passing a background check and enrollment in or completion of certain educational programs. 

UNITED STATES - NOVEMBER 6: Maria Elvira Salazar, Republican candidate for Florida's 27th Congressional District, is interviewed at a Miami-Dade County housing facility on Election Day in Miami on November 6, 2018. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

UNITED STATES – NOVEMBER 6: Maria Elvira Salazar, Republican candidate for Florida’s 27th Congressional District, is interviewed at a Miami-Dade County housing facility on Election Day in Miami on November 6, 2018. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
(Getty)

Republican Rep. Tom Reed of New York, who co-chairs the House Problem Solvers Caucus, said Wednesday he’ll support the bill for farmworkers but cannot back the Dream Act because the terms are too generous. He said he supports a path for citizenship for minors who came to the United States through no fault of their own, but he can’t back legislation he thinks opens the door for their parents to also stay.

“The penalty that has to be paid to parents is that they cannot have a pathway to citizenship and that the American Dream and Promise Act does exactly that,” said Reed, who regularly works across the aisle.

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But freshman Rep. María Elvira Salazar, R-Fla., said she’ll back the farmworkers bill and the Dream Act, though she’s pushing for broader reforms to secure the border and also implement “compassionate” immigration policies.

“We want to give dignity and we want to give a path to citizenship to the Dreamers – absolutely that has bipartisan support,” said Salazar, who flipped a blue South Florida congressional seat in November.

She’s concerned the two bills Thursday to protect Dreamers and farm workers don’t go far enough.

“What happens with the other millions and millions of people that do not fall into those two categories?” she said Wednesday.

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