House GOP in last-ditch attempt on immigration

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At a news conference following the meeting, Ryan said the next step is to "put pen to paper" to get legislation before the full House.

Leaders of opposing House GOP factions are meeting with Speaker Paul Ryan as Republican leaders try to prevent passage of legislation that would protect young immigrants from deportation and provide a path toward citizenship.

On the ground there, Democrats are pounding the GOP for its inaction on DACA and other immigration-related issues.

Conservatives declined several requests to comment on the proposal.

The more popular option would create a new visa program that would reward immigrants for meeting certain benchmarks to allow them to become citizens, though lawmakers were vague about what those would be. Highlighting the tenuous state of the talks, moderates said Thursday they had reached an accord with conservatives on a key sticking point, while conservative leaders denied any such deal was in place. Another member of that group, Rep. Dave Brat, R-Va., said the idea has been discussed but cautioned that there are "tons of moving pieces to it". And in a tweet, the Caucus said it has "not made an offer on immigration" but said talks continued. That solution is meant to address conservative concerns that there be no "special" pathway to citizenship for dreamers.

Curbelo on Friday said the supporters of the discharge petition were ready to gather their last signatures before Tuesday, but he also held out the possibility of waiting until July.

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"We've got the rule of law in this country, and nobody gets special consideration", said Rep. Scott Perry, R-Pa., a member of the conservative House Freedom Caucus.

If moderates can gather two more GOP signatures on their petition by next Tuesday - assuming all Democrats sign - they could force immigration votes in late June. GOP leaders are scrambling to prevent the petition from being completed on Tuesday, which would set a debate for June 25.

The leaders of the effort that has been triggering weeks of intense negotiations - a procedural maneuver that would force immigration to the floor and bypass party leadership - said that conservatives had put forward a proposal to them that would include a "bridge" for recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program and those like them to eventually gain citizenship, which has been the most hard part of negotiations to date.

Republicans in the House of Representatives appear to have briefly avoided an intra-party revolt on immigration, but the issue isn't going away anytime soon-especially with the midterm elections heating up.

But new questions emerged over how far the package should go to clamp down on immigration enforcement in the US, beyond the $25 billion both sides have largely agreed to for President Donald Trump's border wall with Mexico.

The White House pushed a plan that would have offered 1.8 million young immigrants a chance at citizenship but would have bolstered border security and ended the diversity lottery program that lets immigrants be awarded green cards.

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Lawmakers coming out of the meeting with Ryan said discussions are continuing and no agreement has been reached. He said leaders would work toward a draft that resembles Trump's demands on the issue.

"I feel good about the kind of conversations we're having", Ryan said.

Republicans also said, however, that they are wary of a repeat of 1986, the last major amnesty, when Congress and President Reagan approved a path to citizenship for almost 3 million illegal immigrants and promised stiffer enforcement, but ended up with only the amnesty.

The biggest hang-up remained what to do with people brought to the USA illegally as children, known as Dreamers. At last count, the various Democratic candidates for governor cobbled together more than 60 percent of the vote, compared to less than 40 percent for the Republicans. Such a plan would seem to have no chance in the Senate, where Democrats have enough votes to block it.

Sticking points include determining how many dreamers ought to be entitled to a path to citizenship, how far to scale back the existing rules allowing USA citizens and legal permanent residents to sponsor family members for immigration, and how to structure any border wall funding. Walker said the more Dreamers given an opportunity for citizenship, the tighter curbs on family-based migration would be.

- Alan Fram and Lisa Mascaro, Associated Press; Andrew Taylor, Kevin Freking and Padmananda Rama contributed.

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