Senate to begin immigration-reform debate

June 7, 2013 at 2:30 AM
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WASHINGTON, June 7 (UPI) -- The White House denounced a House vote to restart the deportation of hundreds of thousands of immigrants brought illegally to the United States as children.

The largely party-line 224-201 vote in the Republican-controlled House came the day before the Democratic-controlled Senate was to begin formal debate Friday on its version of a comprehensive immigration-reform measure to grant a pathway to citizenship for the estimated 11 million immigrants living in the country illegally.

The largely symbolic House vote -- its first vote on an immigration-related measure this year -- would prevent the White House from spending any money to implement President Barack Obama's 2012 election-year executive order to stop deportations of many so-called DREAM Act individuals.

"These 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," White House spokesman Jay Carney said in a sharply critical statement of the House vote.

The measure, sponsored by Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, was tacked onto a Homeland Security spending bill as an amendment.

"This amendment ... runs contrary to our most deeply-held values as Americans," Carney said. "It asks law enforcement to treat these Dreamers the same way as they would violent criminals. It's wrong. It's not who we are. And it will not become law. "

The administration has declared it would veto the overall legislation for Homeland Security spending in the fiscal year 2014, beginning Oct. 1 on budgetary grounds.

King, a prominent opponent of immigration reform, turned Carney's words around in a statement of his own.

It is "the president's executive amnesty [that] runs 'contrary to our most deeply held values as Americans,'" not the amendment, King said.

The values that run most deeply "include the rule of law and our Constitution," he said.

"The president has acted in a lawless fashion, violated his own oath and now insists Congress conform to his partisan, political perversion of the rule of law" by funding Obama's two-year, renewable "deferred action for childhood arrivals" policy, King said.

Deferred action, adopted by Obama a year ago, permits young immigrants living in the United States without legal permission to apply under certain conditions for the right to remain in the country temporarily and work.

Those conditions are generally that they were under age 31 on June 15, 2012; arrived in the United States before age 16; lived in the country continuously for at least the past five years; haven't committed a major crime; and have either a high-school degree, equivalency certificate or served in the military.

King has also pledged to do everything he can to kill the Senate's bipartisan "Gang of Eight" bill, which proposes comprehensive immigration reform, if it passes the Senate and goes to the House for consideration.

The Senate was to begin debating the Gang of Eight measure, called the Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act, at 9:30 a.m. Friday.

The Senate has scheduled a vote Tuesday on whether to consider bill amendments.

Gang of Eight member Marco Rubio, R-Fla., has said the bill's border-security provisions must be strengthened before the measure can pass the Senate.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., has said he hopes the Senate will vote on the measure by July 4.

Meanwhile, House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, told reporters he hoped the House Judiciary Committee would have a bill or series of bills ready for full House consideration by the end of June, with a House vote at the end of July.

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