A Republican congressman from Florida said Tuesday he won't support a year-end spending measure unless Congress passes a solution for immigrants brought into the country illegally as children.
Rep. Carlos Curbelo joined many Democratic lawmakers in that stance, even though he has been denied a seat by the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. The caucus membership is entirely Democratic.
"I will not support any appropriations bill that funds the government beyond December 31st unless we get this DACA issue resolved," Curbelo said at a panel discussion in Miami hosted by the pro-immigrant IMPAC Fund.
Some other Republicans have pressed Speaker Paul Ryan to act quickly on immigration legislation to protect 800,000 young immigrants. Curbelo's willingness to withhold needed support for the spending measure goes further than others in his party.
Republican President Donald Trump gave Congress until March to find a solution after he rescinded the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, but some lawmakers say the measure can't be postponed. Some of the immigrants, commonly known as Dreamers, begin facing deportation in March.
Curbelo has sponsored a bill that he says goes beyond DACA in protecting more than 1 million young immigrants and offering a path to citizenship. His bill, which differs from the measure brought forward by the Democrats, sparked a recent clash among Hispanic congressional members who resent his reluctance to co-sponsor the DREAM Act. The Congressional Hispanic Caucus rejected his request to join earlier this month, citing a difference in values.
"They discriminate against me at a time we should be sending a message of unity among American Hispanics," he said, adding that it won't discourage him from supporting whichever immigration legislation moves forward. "We are going to get it done in spite of their efforts to divide the Hispanic community."
He urged Democrats, who want a comprehensive bill, and Republicans, who want increased enforcement, to reach a compromise. Also on the panel Tuesday were Florida Democrats Rep. Frederica Wilson and Ted Deutch. They agreed with Curbelo that a decision for young immigrants must be finalized before the year ends.
Curbelo pointed out that the measure is time-sensitive, and said companies such as IBM will be affected when employees' work permits expire as DACA phases out. He said a professional coach he hired to improve his tennis game is also a DACA recipient.
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee said Curbelo has refused to truly back a bill that already has wide support.
"Congressman Curbelo has an opportunity to be a part of that bipartisan solution, but instead he has repeatedly refused to sign onto the DREAM Act while simultaneously claiming to support Dreamers," DCCC spokesman Javier Gamboa said in a statement. "That sort of doubletalk is shameful and shows Curbelo's motivation is chasing headlines to protect his political career while Dreamers' lives hang in the balance."
Curbelo said he's working in the Problem Solvers Caucus to combine his bill with the one preferred by Democrats and add border security components. The DREAM Act is co-sponsored by 200 House members including five Republicans. The Recognizing America's Children Act, proposed by Curbelo, has 35 co-sponsors, and only one is a Democrat.
"This is almost ready to go," he said.