Rep. Michael Grimm has bucked his Republican colleagues in the House of Representatives by refusing to sign on to an amendment calling for resuming the deportation of hundreds of thousands of immigrants brought illegally to the United States as children.
The potential legislation — seen largely as a symbolic move in the first immigration-related vote in either chamber of Congress this year — passed last week primarily on a party-line vote, 224-201, with Grimm one of six Republicans to vote against it.
“For the first time in decades, Congress is close to finalizing an immigration bill that — from what I can see so far — has a lot of points that will serve our county well. This comprehensive package will finally close our borders, strengthen E-Verify so that we don’t have illegal workers, and fix our broken visa system so that we can track those overstaying their visits,” said Grimm (R-Staten Island/Brooklyn).
In the past, the congressman voted in opposition to similar provisions that would have given more rights to young people brought to this country illegally.
“With my House colleagues working diligently on this comprehensive solution through the appropriate committees of jurisdiction, I felt it would only undermine their efforts to use an appropriations bill for immigration reform,” he said in respect of his Thursday vote.
The following day, his New Dorp office received heartfelt thank-you notes from a number of groups advocating for immigration reform, among them Make the Road New York, Staten Island Dream Coalition, El Centro del Inmigrante, Staten Island Immigrants Council, the Staten Island Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and the Arab American Association.
“DREAMers and Make the Road New York members in Rep. Grimm’s district greatly appreciate his vote and look forward to working with him in the weeks and months to come on comprehensive immigration reform to fix our country’s immigration system once and for all,” said Manuel Nestor Lopez, 19, of Port Richmond, an advocate for immigration reform who was brought to this country as a child.
The amendment seeks to halt President Barack Obama’s 2012 election-year order to stop the deportation of many so-called DREAM Act individuals, by denying funding to implement the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.
Democrats on the House floor reacted with boos when the provision was added to a routine spending bill for the Department of Homeland Security.
The largely partisan vote was the first salvo fired as debate on immigration reform starts to move through Washington, and demonstrates the daunting challenge facing supporters of a sweeping overhaul of existing law on the subject.
It stood as a stark warning from conservatives who dominate the ranks of the Republican House majority about attempts in the Senate to grant a chance at citizenship to an estimated 11.5 million undocumented immigrants residing in the country.
And the White House reacted sharply, saying the House-passed measure would affect “DREAMers” who 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.”
Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) said in a statement the vote prohibits the administration “from implementing executive amnesty” without congressional action.
The vote on the amendment took place as Senate leaders prepared for the opening of debate on White House-backed legislation that would create a chance at citizenship for those in the country unlawfully, at the same time it takes steps to assure the borders are secure against future illegal immigration.
The measure was drafted by a bipartisan group of eight senators, then approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee last month. It is expected to be brought to the Senate floor for a vote within weeks.
Ana Avendano of the AFL-CIO said in a statement that immigration reform is necessary, and that King and his allies are playing to “a dwindling base of anti-immigrant Republican primary voters. We hope and expect that the leadership of the Republican party will understand that this is not only abhorrent policy but suicidal politics.”
Naflan Doole, a senior at Curtis High School, said he hopes more Republicans will follow Grimm’s lead by being open to the prospect of changing to the country’s broken immigration laws.
“I’m going to pursue my education and I’m going to give back to my community,” he said. “I thank Rep. Michael Grimm for opposing the amendment to deny funding to implement DACA.”
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