House Republicans Vote to Defund Immigrant Program

Republicans back cutting funds for a program serving DREAMers.

June 6, 2013— -- If you've been hoping Republicans in the House would consider an immigration reform bill with a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, this won't be good news.

The House passed a homeland security spending bill on Wednesday that sent a message to immigrants in the country without authorization: we don't want you here.

Nearly all House Republicans voted to add an amendment to the bill that would cut funding for an Obama administration program that allows young undocumented immigrants to live and work in the U.S.

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Among the many Republicans who voted yes were House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) and two GOP congressman who are part of a bipartisan "Gang of Eight" working on an immigration reform bill.

The reason immigration came up during the discussion of homeland security funding is because the U.S. Department of Homeland Security oversees federal immigration programs, including the aforementioned initiative, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).

"I think it sends a very interesting signal to the Latino community because this motion would essentially invalidate the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program for DREAMers," said Cecilia Muñoz, the director of the White House Domestic Policy Council, at a briefing for Hispanic media. "It will be interesting to see what the reaction is in the community."

The vote is largely symbolic. It's very unlikely the Democrat-controlled Senate would support a bill containing that provision, or that the president would sign it into law.

But with an immigration reform bill heading to the Senate floor on Monday, the vote shows that a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants -- even those already screened and working legally -- aren't a priority for House Republicans.

The amendment's sponsor, Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), certainly sees it that way. He's been working to derail the immigration reform bill in the Senate, dubbing it "amnesty" for undocumented immigrants.

"My amendment blocks many of the provisions that are mirrored in the Senate's 'Gang of Eight' bill," he wrote in a statement. "If this position holds, no amnesty will reach the President's desk."

The reaction from the country's largest activist network of undocumented youth was sharp and swift:

"This is an outrage and the exact opposite of what our country needs from its political leaders," Cristina Jiménez said in a statement. "Does Speaker Boehner want to follow Rep. Steve King's lead and seal his party's fate as an out-of-touch, extremist party that has forever marginalized the immigrant and Latino community?"

Republicans weren't entirely alone in wanting to defund the program for undocumented youth. Three Democrats voted for the amendment: Reps. John Barrow (Ga.), Nick Rahall (W.Va.) and Mike McIntyre (N.C.).

With reporting from Jordan Fabian.