WASHINGTON – Rep. Bill Flores (R-Texas) said he is willing to vote for a pathway to citizenship for DREAMers if it’s tied to additional border security measures and visa reform.
“We’ve heard several discussions about the struggles that are faced by DREAMers. I think it’s important to remember that the DREAMers didn’t put themselves into the situation they find themselves in today; that happened because of the actions of others and because we have a set of laws that really doesn’t fit their situation very well, so we as Congress need to address that,” he said on a recent conference call with Christian DREAMers and Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program beneficiaries organized by the National Immigration Forum and the Evangelical Immigration Table.
“On one hand, the policy goal that President Obama put forth when he implemented the DACA program probably made sense, but the real challenge was it didn’t fit the Constitution. Under Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution, it clearly says all actions related to immigration belong to Congress, so I think President Trump made a good decision when he said that the DACA program would have an end date,” he added.
Trump set a March deadline for the phase-out of DACA to give lawmakers a chance to pass a fix that would protect 800,000 registered DACA beneficiaries from deportation. Congressional negotiations have been bumped to next year.
Flores said he is “trying” to address Trump’s challenge for Congress to find a DACA solution. While his district is mostly conservative, Flores said about “80 percent” of his constituents think DREAMers “should have a path to legal status.”
“Actually, over 50 percent think they ought to have a path to citizenship and that’s where I am as well, and so I am actually putting my rhetoric to work in this regard. We are going to have a bill that we hope to file this week that will take elements that all ends of the ideological spectrum are saying are important to get done when it comes to immigration,” he said. “The first element of this is something similar to the Recognizing America’s Children Act, or RAC Act, which I have signed on to be a co-sponsor. We take elements of that.”
The Recognizing America’s Children Act would give the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) the authority to “cancel the removal of and adjust to conditional nonimmigrant for an initial five-year period the status of an alien” younger than 16 years old “when he or she initially entered the United States and has been physically present in the United States since January 1, 2012” and meets certain qualifications.
Flores also said his bill is going to address the border security concerns Americans have at this time. He is currently working to add co-sponsors to the legislation from both parties.
“We want a secure border. We want a visa enforcement tracking system that works, so we work with our legislative team here at my office to come up with a bill that has all that done. The first draft of that is prepared,” he said. “We hope to introduce this bipartisan legislation very soon.”
Flores said he would push his proposed bill forward for a House vote before the end of the year if he had the powers of the House floor “czar.”
“Let me make clear that I’m not,” he said. “Candidly speaking, it doesn’t feel like that’s going to happen.”
Flores said he plans to keep the DREAMers “front and center” and pick up his work on a solution “first thing” next year.
“We’ve got until March 5th to get this done, but to me that date is not meaningful because that means we just add another 60 days of uncertainty to this important population for our country and for our economy. And I would like to get that dealt with as soon as possible,” he said. “I ask that you keep Congress and its leaders in your thoughts and prayers that they get the right thing done, that we show good wisdom on this and that we move expeditiously.”
Flores doubts there are enough votes in Congress to pass a “clean” DREAM Act with no additional measures.
“Good policy involves dealing with the DREAMers in a tangible way so that they have security and a path to legal status and possibly to citizenship,” he said. “I think it’s an imperative that we deal with a border that’s porous. I also think it’s important we deal with where the 40 percent of other folks who are here illegally are coming from, and that’s the broken visa system.”
Flores is optimistic that both sides could come together on this issue before the end of the DACA program.
“How can either side say they are against DREAMers and how can either side say they are against border security? So what I’m trying to do is put both of those together and get an optimum result,” he said.
“I’m kind of as hard right as anybody, but the hard-right population that’s against the DREAMers is really, really small, so I see an opportunity here for all ends of the ideological spectrum to come together to deal with this and I don’t think you can get either of these done totally by themselves,” the former Republican Study Committee chairman added. “So, why don’t we come up with a practical solution that addresses the two biggest issues we have on immigration today – the DREAMers and border security and visa tracking – and put them together?”