Carlos Curbelo signs on to the DREAM Act

U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo, R-Miami.
U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo, R-Miami. AP

Miami Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo announced Friday he will sign on to the DREAM Act, a bill that protects young immigrants who stand to lose protection from deportation if President Donald Trump successfully cancels an Obama-era executive action known as DACA.

"We're closer than ever to meaningful compromise on immigration," Curbelo said on Twitter. "Thankful to Rep. Jeff Denham for his work to force a vote on possible solutions in the House. Today, I co-sponsored 2 bills I would support – Rep. Will Hurd & Rep. Pete Aguilar's USA Act and Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard's DREAM Act."

Immigration activists have asked Curbelo for months to co-sponsor the DREAM Act, which is considered the most expansive piece of immigration legislation that would protect the young immigrants known as Dreamers from deportation. Curbelo wrote his own piece of immigration legislation, dubbed the Recognizing America’s Children Act, a more conservative version of the DREAM Act designed to capture more Republican support.

Curbelo had previously said he would vote for any immigration bill, including the DREAM Act, if it made it to the House floor. The sole immigration bill that was recently considered by House leadership is a conservative plan that Curbelo doesn't support and the U.S. Senate tried and failed to pass a slew of immigration bills in February.

Curbelo, a Miami Republican facing reelection in a Miami-to-Key West district that voted for Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump by 16 percentage points, joins retiring Miami Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen as a DREAM Act cosponsor. Ros-Lehtinen introduced this Congress' version of the DREAM Act in July 2017, and Curbelo is the sixth Republican to sign onto the bill.

Democrats and activists in South Florida have criticized Curbelo for not signing onto the DREAM Act and Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, who is likely to be Curbelo's opponent in the 2018 general election, said he took too long to sign on.

"Miami deserves a leader on this issue, not a Congressman who only takes common sense steps to support the DREAM Act after more than 6 months of pressure here in Miami and from DREAMers across the country," Mucarsel-Powell said in an email.

The USA Act, introduced by a Texas Republican and a California Democrat, has 27 Republican cosponsors including Curbelo. The bill gives Dreamers who have lived in the U.S. for at least four years, including DACA recipients, the opportunity to earn permanent legal status if they pursue higher education, enlist in the military or are gainfully employed, and meet other requirements. It also includes funding for border security, while the DREAM Act solely deals with protecting immigrants already in the U.S.

Curbelo has voted against a variety of spending bills in recent months because an immigration solution isn't imminent. DACA recipients were slated to face potential deportation in March, but the Supreme Court declined to hear a fast-tracked appeal by the Justice Department that could have ended the program on March 5th.

The court's decision has left 690,000 DACA recipients in limbo, though a federal judge ruled this week that the U.S. government must keep DACA in place for now and accept new applications.