Cantor loss inflames immigration debate at spending panel

 

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s primary election loss added fuel to a heated immigration reform debate in the House Appropriations Committee on Wednesday.

The committee, en route to approving the $39.2 billion Department of Homeland Security (DHS) bill for 2015, fought over an amendment aimed at stopping the deportation of parents whose children are allowed to stay in the United States. 

Cantor’s loss has doomed immigration reform this year, according to many observers, and advocates of the amendment said steps must be taken to stop deportations now that reform is delayed indefinitely. 

Reps. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) and Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-Calif.) argued that thousands of American children have been forced into foster care because one or more parents have been deported. 

“All we are saying is we don’t want funds to deport parents of American kids,” Schiff said.

“The conventional wisdom after yesterday’s election is that there isn’t going to be immigration reform,” he said, adding that he hopes conventional wisdom is wrong about Cantor’s defeat, but families need to be protected in case it is correct. 

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Cantor’s opponent, Dave Brat, accused the majority leader of being in favor of “amnesty” for illegal immigrants. Brat’s victory could cause some Republicans to recoil from any immigration vote. 

Rep. Mario Diaz Balart (R-Fla.) argued that the amendment would hurt his efforts to get an immigration bill vote this summer and said he is still making that push. In the end, he voted for the amendment, which was defeated 23-26. 

Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) argued that the amendment would sink the DHS funding measure.

“I’m afraid if this became a part of the bill, it would never see the light of day,” Rogers said.

The full bill passed out of committee on a voice vote.

A controversial abortion amendment was included that would prohibit federal funding for Immigration and Customs Enforcement to provide abortions, except in certain life-threatening cases, rape and incest. It was adopted on a vote of 29-18, and the GOP argued the amendment just restates current law.