Republican U.S. Rep. Will Hurd, R-Helotes, on Tuesday said he would file what he called “narrow and bipartisan” legislation to protect young undocumented immigrants.
The U.S.A. Act, co-authored with Democratic U.S. Rep. Pete Aguilar, D-Calif., would protect beneficiaries of the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program and beef up the government's efforts to secure the border. A spokesperson in Hurd’s Washington office said the legislation would be filed Tuesday evening.
“Congress [over] the years has proven that doing comprehensive and partisan doesn’t do very well, so let’s try a different approach. Let’s be narrow and bipartisan, and that’s what this bill does,” Hurd said Tuesday during a news conference that was livestreamed on Facebook.
The legislation, Hurd said, would also pave the way for the Department of Homeland Security to achieve operational control of the border by increasing the number of boots on the ground, technology and physical barriers on the border to reach that goal.
The announcement comes days after the White House cast doubt on whether a deal to fix DACA could happen after President Donald Trump rejected a bipartisan bill proposed by a group of U.S. senators. That was followed by outrage from Democrats after Trump apparently referred to some countries as “shitholes” and questioned why the United States should welcome people from those areas.
But Hurd said his legislation has a chance because of its narrow focus, though he said it could be amended to include other provisions if there is a consensus to do so.
“This can be used as a foundation for other conversations as well,” he said. “But let’s start with something that’s narrow, let’s start with something that everyone agrees on.”
Hurd and Aguilar’s effort comes the same day that United States Attorney General Jeff Sessions said he’d appeal a ruling that blocked the Trump Administration from ending DACA. Sessions announced in October that the initiative, which has benefitted about 800,000 immigrants, including 124,000 Texans, would end in March. But last week U.S. District Judge William Alsup ruled the program would stand while a legal challenge, filed by the state of California, proceeds. As a result, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services announced Saturday it would once again begin accepting renewal applications — but not new ones.
Lawmakers are up against a Friday deadline to pass a stopgap funding bill to keep the government functioning. Democrats have said they will vote against any measure that doesn’t include a legislative fix for the young undocumented immigrants, commonly referred to as "Dreamers." Hurd said Tuesday the fact that his legislation has the early support of 40 lawmakers, both Democratic and Republican, shows anything is possible even this late in the game.
“Most folks, meaning y’all’s peers, said Republicans and Democrats couldn’t come together on anything in this politically charged environment," he told reporters. "The U.S.A. Act proves that wrong."