WASHINGTON (TIP): The Republican-controlled House of Representatives voted on Thursday to resume the deportation of hundreds of thousands of immigrants brought illegally to the United States as children, the first immigration-related vote in either chamber of Congress this year and a measure of the daunting challenge facing supporters of a sweeping overhaul of existing law on the subject.
The party-line vote of 224-201 was aimed at blocking implementation of President Barack Obama’s 2012 electionyear order called the DREAM Act to stop deportations of many individuals who could benefit from it. Democrats on the House floor reacted with boos when the provision was added to a routine spending bill for the Department of Homeland Security. The vote was largely symbolic, since the administration has threatened to veto the overall legislation on budgetary grounds.
It nevertheless stood as a stark warning from conservatives who dominate the ranks of the Republican House majority about attempts in the Senate to grant a chance at citizenship to an estimated 11 million immigrants residing in the country illegally. And the White House reacted sharply, saying the House-passed measure would affect “Dreamers” who are “productive members of society who were brought here as young children, grew up in our communities, and became American in every way but on paper.”
Rep. Steve King, a Republican, said in a statement that the vote prohibits the administration “from implementing executive amnesty” without congressional action. “Bipartisan support for my amendment is the first test of the 113th Congress in the House of Representatives on immigration. My amendment blocks many of the provisions that are mirrored in the Senate’s `Gang of Eight’ bill. If this position holds, no amnesty will reach the President’s desk,” he said.
The vote took place as Senate leaders set Friday for the opening of debate on White House-backed legislation that would create a chance at citizenship for those in the country unlawfully, at the same time it takes steps to assure the borders are secure against future illegal immigration. The measure was drafted by a bipartisan group of eight senators, then approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee last month on a vote of 13-8.
It also creates a new low-skilled guestworker program, expands the number of visas available for high-tech industry workers and reorders the system for legal immigration that has been in place for decades. Debate is expected to consume weeks on the Senate floor as lawmakers of differing views try to change it more to their liking. Notably, Sen. Marco Rubio, a Florida Republican who was part of the group that drafted the legislation and is a potential presidential candidate in 2016, is saying he wants changes before he will support it on final passage.
His office did not respond to a request for reaction to the House vote. In the House, 221 Republicans and three Democrats voted for King’s proposal, while 195 Democrats and six Republicans opposed it. “I can’t believe they just did that,” said Sen. Dick Durbin, a Democrat and a leading supporter of the DREAM Act. Ana Avendano of the AFL-CIO labor federation, said in a statement that King and his allies are playing to “a dwindling base of anti-immigrant Republican primary voters.