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Republicans In Congress Mixed On Whether DACA 'DREAMers' Should Stay In U.S.

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

We're going to hear now from Representative Carlos Curbelo, a Republican from Florida. He's introduced legislation called the Recognizing America's Children Act. It would solidify the protections for DREAMers that were introduced by President Obama's executive action into law. And it would also go further, providing pathways to citizenship. Earlier today, I asked Congressman Curbelo whether he thinks six months is enough time to convince his fellow Republicans that these actions are worthwhile.

CARLOS CURBELO: Well, I think it's pretty obvious that if the president does indeed give us that window within which we can act, I think most Republicans would be willing to take that step. I think if there were a vote on the House floor today, a majority of Republicans would support allowing these young people which I consider Americans, thus the name of my legislation, to remain in the country and to obtain permanent status in the country. Most people understand that these young immigrants went to school with our own kids, grew up here, speak perfect English. Many of them don't even remember their countries of origin. So they are American. And I think most Republicans would be willing to take that step, which would mean that it would overwhelmingly pass the U.S. House of Representatives.

SHAPIRO: You say if there were a vote tomorrow, ultimately whether or not there is a vote is up to the leadership. Have you spoken to House Speaker Paul Ryan about where he stands on bringing this up for a vote right away?

CURBELO: Well, we've had some good conversations. And most of these leaders have heard the president's most recent statements on DACA. One of the most notable ones is the one where he says that he wants to treat these young people with heart, with compassion. And I'd say that out of our leadership most, if not all, agree that that is the right approach to take.

SHAPIRO: There's already a long list of things that Congress has to get done this fall, including raising the debt ceiling to keep the government open. Do you think there is room in the legislative calendar to do this?

CURBELO: There's certainly room. And more importantly, there are opportunities. With so many must-pass items not just in September but before the end of the year, there will be multiple vehicles that we can attach this legislation to if it doesn't get a standalone vote in either House or the Senate. So look; I support keeping the program as it is until we find that permanent solution. So I will probably be somewhat disappointed tomorrow by the president's statement. But at the same time, we have to recognize that this may open the door to a permanent solution for these young people, which is what they deserve.

Executive orders, everyone knows in our country, do not constitute law. They can be changed from one president to the next or by the same president. So although tomorrow might be a tough day for DACA recipients and for those of us who support them, I think that it might also be a day of great hope as we see the political system moving towards a permanent solution as opposed to this executive order, which might be declared unconstitutional by a court anyway.

SHAPIRO: That's interesting. You have urged the president not to repeal this policy, but it sounds as though you're saying the president repealing the policy could give your legislation the boost it needs to pass and become more permanent in the long run.

CURBELO: That's right. It's somewhat ironic. If the president had not made any decision on DACA or had left it as it is, which he has done during the first seven, eight months of his presidency, there wouldn't be a sense of urgency and I think people would be complacent with the status quo. With this phaseout - if that's what ends up happening 'cause it's still speculative at this point - then there will be a sense of urgency. And most members of Congress in both chambers do not want to see these young people deported, so it will really force us to act. And, yes, it will improve the chances of legislation like my Recognizing America's Children Act moving forward.

SHAPIRO: You've said that most Republicans in your view support this policy. We've heard a lot of different statements from a lot of different people. Where do you get the conclusion that most people agree with you on this?

CURBELO: Well, I've been talking to my colleagues about this since I arrived in Congress in January of 2015. And overwhelmingly, Republicans tell me, yes, I could support giving these young immigrants permanent status in our country as long as we continue moving towards better border security, the enforcement of our immigration laws. So at the very least there is a willingness to find a compromise that includes stronger security and some compassion with these young people who never violated any law - when they came to this country, they were brought by their parents or by others - and are contributing to our country today. So there is a sweet spot here, and this action by the president tomorrow, I think, will force us to find it.

SHAPIRO: Congressman Carlos Curbelo, Republican of Florida, thanks for joining us.

CURBELO: Of course. Have a great day. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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