Valley Republican Reps. David Valadao of Hanford and Jeff Denham of Turlock voted against a House bill Wednesday that would provide nearly $40 billion to finance the Homeland Security Department through the rest of the budget year. The bill includes provisions rolling back President Barack Obama’s actions on immigration.
The bill passed 236-191. Valadao and Denham were the only California Republicans (and only 10 total in the House) to vote no. Voting yes were House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy of Bakersfield and Devin Nunes of Tulare. All of California’s Democrats, including Rep. Jim Costa of Fresno, voted no.
Costa said, “In the San Joaquin Valley, which I represent, this bill will have significant impacts on farm workers, farmers and farming communities. Now more than ever Congress should be focusing on protecting our families and finding a permanent solution to our immigration system.
“Putting Americans at risk, because of partisan politics, is just plain irresponsible.”
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The House also agreed to eliminate Obama’s 2012 policy, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, which granted work permits and stays of deportation to more than 600,000 immigrants who arrived in the U.S. illegally as children. That vote was 218-209 with the same party lines among the California delegation.
Denham called the bill’s effect scapegoating the innocent.
“While I didn’t support the president’s choice to act unilaterally in 2012, this singular group has unfortunately become the scapegoat for my colleagues’ attempt to rectify President Obama’s egregious actions against democracy. I regret the insistence of making this class of immigrants pay for the president’s wrongful acts,” Denham said.
Jesus Martinez, a Fresno-based consultant with the Immigrant Legal Resource Center, said he was encouraged to see local Congress members voice their support of Obama’s executive actions. He called it a sign of the growing recognition of the multiple benefits the actions could have on the Valley.
Martinez said he’s only worried in the sense that the bill is a political gesture meant to reflect the opposition to Obama’s executive actions.
“But it is also within the constitutional powers of the executive branch to develop those types of programs, so in that respect I am not worried about it,” he said. “On the contrary, I think when Obama announced the executive actions and way back when he announced Deferred Action in 2012, what he did was make an attempt to make U.S. immigration policies more realistic with what the nation needs, something that Congress has not done since the 1980s.”
Martinez coordinates a coalition called the Central Valley Immigrant Integration Collaborative, helping undocumented immigrants obtain driver’s licenses under Assembly Bill 60 and apply for Deferred Action, among other things. He said he sees the effects of the country’s dysfunctional immigration system in the Valley on a daily basis because the regional economy relies so heavily on immigration labor.