WASHINGTON (AP) — Republican Sen. Jeff Flake said Wednesday that party leaders have assured him the Senate will vote in January on bipartisan legislation to protect certain young immigrants from deportation.
Flake, who had pressed for a guarantee during talks for his support on the tax bill, said in a statement he was pleased that Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., was committed to bringing the immigration bill “we are currently negotiating to the Senate floor in January.”
At issue is President Donald Trump’s decision to rescind an Obama-era executive order that created the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which gave protected status to about 800,000 young immigrants who are in the United States illegally. Many were brought here as infants or children and have known no other country except the United States.
In scrapping the order, Trump gave Congress until March to come up with a legislative solution.
Republicans leaders don’t want to take on the contentious issue of immigration this year but promise it will be taken care of in 2018. Democrats have pressed for a fix before the end of this year.
Although Flake, R-Ariz., said the Senate will vote, it remains unclear whether the House will back such legislation. In 2013, the Senate supported a bipartisan bill overhauling the immigration system and providing a path to citizenship for some 11 million living here illegally. The measure died in the Republican-led House.
Under the program, the young immigrants get two-year permits that let them work and remain in the country. Trump rescinded the program this year, but he let immigrants renew their documents if those documents were set to expire between September and March.
Immigrants had to reapply by Oct. 5 and pay a $495 fee.
The government says 132,000 of the 154,000 eligible renewals applied in time, leaving more than 20,000 without any protection from deportation.
Teresa Younger, president and CEO of the Ms. Foundation for Women, said Congress needs to act now.
“The lives of nearly 800,000 young people in our country hang in the balance,” she said. “People who have spent the majority of their lives in this country, going to school, starting careers, and settling with families are now at risk of deportation.”
Younger and other advocates say the program was intended as a short-term measure to keep families together and a long-term solution is needed.