WASHINGTON — The Republican-led House voted along party lines Thursday to prohibit funding for President Obama’s Dream Act-styled program, which temporarily halts the deportations of young immigrants if they have served in the military or are attending college.
The 224-201 vote underscored the resistance of House Republicans to the immigration overhaul that has gained momentum in the Senate. The amendment was proposed by Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), who is among the chamber’s most hardened opponents of a path to citizenship for the estimated 11 million people living in the country without legal status. The vote came as House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) sought to reach out to Latinos with an op-ed Thursday that touched on immigration reform in the Spanish-language newspaper La Opinion.
“This mean-spirited vote shows that House Republicans have a tin ear for politics and cold hearts when it comes to compassion for young people who have only known America as their home,” said Sen. Richard J. Durbin of Illinois, the No. 2 Democrat who has championed legal status for young immigrants. He called the House vote “shameful.”
King sought to end what he calls the Dream Act “light,” the Obama administration’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, which was put in place last summer and has been enormously popular in the immigrant community. The program allows young people who apply to gain temporary legal status and avoid the risk of deportation for two years.
The deferral program was largely seen as a stopgap alternative to the Dream Act, failed legislation that would give the young people a route to citizenship. The Dream Act is included in the bipartisan Senate immigration overhaul. Young people who call themselves Dreamers have become prominent in the immigration debate.
“Whatever people think of the impending immigration policy here in the United States, we cannot allow the executive branch to usurp the legislative authority of the United States Congress,” King said during this week’s debate. “If we allow that to happen in immigration, it could happen to anything.”
Three Democrats joined Republicans in approving the amendment, which is tacked onto a must-pass bill to fund the Pentagon and other defense accounts. It would prevent funding for the Department of Homeland Security to use discretion in deportations. Half a dozen Republicans, including those from districts in California and Florida — some with large Latino populations — voted against it.
Except for the Senate bill’s bipartisan drafters, other Republicans have been cool to the legislation. Top Republicans, including Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, a key author, have been working to bring Republicans on board. But a meeting with House Republicans this week showed little interest.
Boehner and Republican leaders have been nudging their party toward an immigration overhaul, as they try to reach out to Latino and minority voters who have largely abandoned the party.
“Making the process of becoming a legal immigrant fairer and more efficient will help America remain a magnet for the brightest minds and hardest workers,” Boehner wrote in the Spanish-language paper.