House Democratic leaders are eyeing changes to legislation to protect “Dreamers” in a bid to resolve an intraparty dispute that’s stalled a key piece of their agenda.
In a closed-door meeting Wednesday, a group of top Democrats floated tweaks to the bill that would toughen the pathway to citizenship for some undocumented immigrants with criminal records, according to multiple lawmakers and aides in the room.
Story Continued Below
Those changes would likely be enough to pick up votes from the Democrats’ centrist wing while heading off potential political attacks from the GOP on the floor — two key reasons the legislation had been stuck.
The issue was discussed in a late afternoon huddle in Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office with several Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee. The meeting also included leaders of several pro-immigration activist groups like United We Dream, whose support is seen as crucial to moving the bill forward.
Protecting Dreamers has long been a priority for Democrats, but the push has run into some roadblocks within the sprawling House Democratic caucus. Some swing-district lawmakers wanted to make sure that people who have committed certain crimes weren’t eligible for citizenship. One hang-up was related to whether Dreamers who are suspected to be affiliated with gangs could get access to citizenship, according to one source in the room.
Democratic leaders have been eager to avoid exposing any further divides within the caucus on immigration after an embarrassing GOP victory on the issue in February. Some senior lawmakers feared that the Dreamers bill could trigger the same kind of tricky GOP procedural vote, which they feared Republicans could win on the floor.
While a decision has not formally been made, Democrats left Pelosi’s office believing they were close to an agreement, which could allow the House Judiciary Committee to advance the bill after previously postponing its markup.
“I think we’re continuing to have really good discussions and I think we will make progress,” said Rep. Pramila Jayapal, a co-leader of the Congressional Progressive Caucus — a key voting bloc that will be needed for the bill to pass.
The legislation, known as the Dream Act, would provide a pathway to citizenship for more than 2 million undocumented people who came to the country as children.
“I feel there was progress made. The details have still yet to be worked out. I was encouraged,” Rep. Judy Chu (D-Calif.) said leaving the meeting.