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Republicans will buck Trump on immigration if "they feel the heat," Schumer says

Washington — If the House of Representatives passes the newly-unveiled "Dream Act" legislation to put millions of young undocumented immigrants and immigrants with temporary protections on a pathway to U.S. citizenship, Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said he and Senate Democrats would "pressure" moderate Republican senators to break with President Trump's hardline immigration agenda and support the proposal. 

"Donald Trump is extremely anti-immigrant, and even though there are some Republicans who don't share that view — it's not enough. They never buckle," Schumer told reporters at the annual Senate Hispanic Task Force roundtable Wednesday. "Once the House passes the DREAMers bill, we're going to have to just constantly put pressure on the Republicans: 'Where are you? Where are you?'"

By taking "the offensive" on immigration, Schumer is hoping to get some GOP senators who are usually weary of defying the White House and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to back protections for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients, and immigrants shielded from deportation by Temporary Protected Status (TPS) and Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) programs. 

"We just have to keep hitting them and hitting them and hitting them. That's the only way to do this because they will not do it on their own," he added. "And even the handful of Republicans who are pro-immigration — or not as anti-immigration — will not buck McConnell or Trump unless they feel the heat."

The Dream and Promise Act of 2019 introduced in the House Tuesday would grant young undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as children, including those shielded from deportation by the Obama-era DACA program, an opportunity to acquire full U.S. permanent residency if they meet certain requirements. Additionally, the bill would allow more than 300,000 TPS recipients — as well as Liberian immigrants covered by DED — to gain permanent lawful status. 

The legislation is expected to pass in the Democratic-controlled House but will face an uphill battle in the Republican-controlled Senate. Mr. Trump and the immigration hardliners in his administration would likely not support any bill that does not increase funding for immigration enforcement or overhaul the nation's immigration system to reduce both legal and illegal immigration. 

Despite conceding that it would be a "long road" to get to the 60-vote threshold necessary for the bill to secure passage in the Senate, Schumer said Democrats can offer Republicans amendments to the legislation to garner more support and make sure the proposal gets a vote on the Senate floor.  

Once the bill passes in the House, Schumer said his office will provide pro-immigrant groups a list of GOP senators with sizable Latino constituencies in their states so they can mount advocacy campaigns in their home states. Democrats will be eyeing several Republican-held Senate seats in 2020, particularly in states with large Hispanic electorates like Texas, Arizona and Colorado. 

"We're not going to let them duck it," Schumer said.  

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