- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 6, 2013

The immigration fight wasn’t supposed to begin until next week but it got a head start Thursday when House Republicans voted to overturn President Obama’s policies and start deporting rank-and-file illegal immigrants again — an early signal that a broad legalization bill will have trouble passing Congress this year.

The 224-201 vote, which broke chiefly along party lines, would clear the way for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents to begin targeting most illegal immigrants for deportation by canceling the directives Mr. Obama and his top immigration aides have issued over the last two years narrowing the list of illegal immigrants eligible for deportation.

Key among those are the so-called “Dreamers” — illegal immigrant young adults who came to the U.S. as children and are considered among the most sympathetic of illegal immigrants.

“This is an outrage and the exact opposite of what our country needs from its political leaders,” said Cristina Jimenez, managing director of United We Dream, a group of Dreamers.

The vote was an early signal that the momentum for passing a broad legalization bill this year may be waning.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid brought a broad legalization bill to his chamber’s floor on Thursday and set up an initial filibuster test vote on Monday.

A Democrat and a Republican involved in writing that bill have said they don’t yet have the votes to pass it — though they are likely to overcome the initial filibuster effort and begin debating amendments next week.

In the House, meanwhile, a group of negotiators working on a bipartisan bill said late Wednesday they have reached agreement, but they lost the support of Rep. Raul R. Labrador of Idaho, a key Hispanic Republican who they had been counting on to help sell the legislation to conservatives.

Thursday’s votes unveiled deep-seated worries among the GOP over anything that would appear to be giving illegal immigrants a break. The amendment, which was attached to the homeland security spending bill, would cancel the memos that had tied ICE agents’ hands.

Chris Crane, president of the ICE Council, which represents agents, said it was the right move.

“Defunding these lawless policies is the first step in fixing our nation’s broken immigration system,” he said. “The most important thing Congress can do to ensure enforcement is to limit the power of political appointees who ignore the law.”

But Mr. Obama blasted the GOP for voting to undo his policies, and said he will reject the provision introduced by Rep. Steve King, Iowa Republican.

“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,” he said.

Mr. Obama’s deportation record has been the subject of heated debate. He argues he’s deported more people than any other president — though internal documents show he’s boosted those numbers by including some immigrants who just crossed the border. Excluding those numbers shows deportations from the interior of the U.S. actually dropped last year.

Still, immigrant-rights groups say he’s deporting too many people, and have called for a halt to most deportations while Congress prepares to debate a broad legalization.

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