The White House and congressional Democrats on Thursday harshly criticized a House vote to block implementation of President Obama's orders allowing for a relaxed deportation policy for people who entered the U.S. illegally as children.

The White House said the vote on an amendment to a spending bill strips protections from the so-called "Dreamers," and vowed to ensure it would not become law.

"This amendment, sponsored by Representative Steve King [(R-Iowa)], runs contrary to our most deeply-held values as Americans," the White House 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 House earlier on Thursday approved King's amendment to defund Obama's orders specifying that deportation efforts should focus on immigrants in the country illegally who have committed crimes. Republicans blasted the policy at the time as an attempt to selectively enforce U.S. immigration law.

"The point here is ... the president does not have the authority to waive immigration law, nor does he have the authority to create it out of thin air," King said during debate Wednesday night.

The fight comes as efforts on immigration reform continue in the House and Senate. 

The political stakes are high for both sides. 

Obama won more than 70 percent of the Hispanic vote in the 2012 presidential election and has made the issue a second-term priority. Immediately after the election, a number of Republicans signaled a desire to move on immigration reform to try to reach out to the growing demographic group.

Democrats said the vote to defund the policy would subject "Dreamers" — children who were brought to the United States by their parents — to deportation. Rep. Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.) called King's language a "poison pill" to the 2014 Department of Homeland Security funding bill.

"It is simply cruel and foolish," she said in an emailed statement. "It is especially disturbing that the majority would inject this divisive issue into an otherwise strong and bipartisan bill funding public safety and preparedness, a goal shared by Democrats and Republicans."

On Twitter, Senate Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidHarry Reid calls on Democrats to plow forward on immigration Democrats brace for tough election year in Nevada The Memo: Biden's horizon is clouded by doubt MORE (D-Nev.) said the language makes the 2014 spending bill "dead on arrival" in the Senate.

The Senate next week is expected to start work on a bipartisan immigration bill that would create a pathway to citizenship for millions of illegal residents, although it's not clear yet that there is enough Republican support for the bill.