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WASHINGTON (AP) — A Republican congressman said Monday that he's trying to force a vote on legislation offering a three-year extension on protections against deportation for hundreds of thousands of young immigrants.
The election-year effort by Rep. Mike Coffman, R-Colo., could be an uphill climb.
Most Republicans don't want to extend the program unless lawmakers also provide billions of dollars to start building President Donald Trump's proposed wall with Mexico. And some Democrats may not back what they see as a temporary fix to a problem they want permanently resolved — and that many say should also provide the immigrants with a pathway to citizenship.
Under House rules, Coffman will need 218 signatures on a "discharge petition" to force a vote on his bill. Coffman's bill has 31 co-sponsors about evenly divided between Republicans and Democrats.
"We must give these youths the certainty that they can continue to work and study here in the U.S. while Congress debates broader legislation to fix our flawed immigration system," Coffman wrote in a letter that urged members of both parties to support his measure.
Coffman faces a competitive re-election race this year in a district surrounding Denver in which around on in five voters are Hispanic.
House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., has said his preference is to round up votes for a wider-ranging conservative bill that imposes restrictions on legal immigration.
Coffman announced his plan on the date that Trump set as a deadline for Congress to approve legislation renewing those protections. Trump ended the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, last year but gave Congress until March 5 to resurrect it.
The program lets young immigrants brought to the U.S. illegally as children, called Dreamers, temporarily stay in the country and get jobs.
A stalemated Senate has rejected several proposals aimed at helping the Dreamers. The Supreme Court has ordered the administration to continue renewing DACA permits while cases progress through the federal courts — a process likely to take months, draining Congress' sense of urgency.
Earlier Monday, Trump continued blaming Democrats for the impasse.
"It's March 5th and the Democrats are nowhere to be found on DACA. ... We are ready to make a deal!" he tweeted.
It was unclear whether members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus would back Coffman. One member, Rep. Ruben Gallego, D-Ariz., said he wondered if the Colorado lawmaker was pushing his measure hard with fellow Republicans or if it was "just a way to cover himself for his re-election."
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