Vice President Joe Biden talked immigration reform this morning, criticizing a recent Republican vote and calling a Senate amendment "mean," at Esperanza's 2013 National Hispanic Prayer Breakfast.
Esperanza is one of the "largest Hispanic faith-based evangelical networks in the United States," according to its website.
Serving as keynote speaker to the bi-annual three-day event, the vice president "urged" people ask why someone would take a journey from their homeland, "whether it's from Mexico or Ireland or Bolivia," to come to America.
"We are going to sacrifice everything we have, everything we own, we are going to take you to a foreign land where they don't speak our language and you might never get a chance to come back home again. Is that an easy decision?" Biden asked."That's a hard decision. … We act like it's an easy decision for people to drop everything they have.
"It's the part of the human spirit to have a better life for their children and a promise … Esperanza. Hope," he said, referencing the group's name and its English meaning.
Biden criticized an amendment by Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, that passed in early June and would deport all DREAM Act beneficiaries by ending the president's 2012 order protecting young undocumented immigrants from deportation.
"Where do these guys think they'll be sent to?" Biden asked. " A land they've never seen, maybe don't speak the language or dialect … no family."
Citing Matthew 25:35, Biden said Republicans who follow the Bible must have forgotten it.
The verse reads: "For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in."
"These are not strangers. … They have been here most of their whole lives," Biden said of the DREAMers. "These are our children, all of our children."
King, one of the most outspoken critics of the immigration overhaul, hosted a six-hour, anti-immigration reform event on Wednesday criticizing, among other things, "amnesty," "illegal aliens" and U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., who has been working on an immigration deal.
King said the progress on the immigration legislation was moving "a lot faster than I'm comfortable with." In the past, he has said he would take Obama's health care reforms over "this amnesty plan."
King has said on the House floor that his amendment to deport the DREAMers was intended as a check on the administration.
"We cannot allow the executive branch to usurp the legislative authority of the United States Congress," King said. "If we allow that to happen in immigration, it could happen to anything."
Besides criticizing King's proposal, Biden also called an unspecified Senate amendment "one of the meanest amendments" that will come up in the debate.
"I hope we can defeat it," he said. "It says even if you've been working, living in the shadows, you don't get credit for all the money you paid to the government. That's just mean. Mean!"
The amendment he seemed to be referencing was a failed measure by Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., that would have called for restricting the Earned Income Tax Credit to citizens or legal permanent residents.
A White House official said Biden was "making a general statement and wasn't referring to a specific amendment."
Without directly mentioning today's developing deal on immigration and border security, Biden spoke to the amendment from Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, that also calls for stronger border provisions, saying it is "essential" and "a right" for a country to defend its borders, but that it is time to pass "firm, but fair" reform.
Biden noted that a recently released Congressional Budget Office report that showed immigration reform would boost the economy and lower the deficit, "doesn't cost, it saves money. … So much for the argument that this is going to cost good American citizens."
"In every era, at the end of the day, we welcome immigrants," Biden said. "This is a fact we don't talk about enough, we are enriched. We become more competitive."