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Measure also threatens Homeland Security, ‘deferred action’

Less than two months after President Barack Obama unveiled an executive order aimed at protecting millions of undocumented immigrants from deportation, U.S. House Republicans passed a bill to roll the action back.

U.S. Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC) represents the 11th District

Western North Carolina Reps. Mark Meadows, Patrick McHenry and Virginia Foxx all cast votes supporting the rollback. The measure also attached amendments for repealing the president’s executive actions to a bill for funding the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. The bill faces little hope of gaining the 60 votes needed for approval in the GOP-controlled Senate, and it has already been met with the threat of a veto if it were to reach Obama’s desk.

Still, the measure’s passage sets the stage for another Washington showdown, with the clock ticking toward a Feb. 27 deadline when funding for Homeland Security runs dry if no deal is met.

The threat of potential shutdown also comes as the department continues to address recent terror threats, including a foiled plot of an attack on the U.S. Capitol.

U.S. Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-NC) represents the 10th District.

Following the roll call, Meadows, McHenry and Foxx all issued statements defending their votes, and they added criticism of the president’s willingness to grant “amnesty” to undocumented immigrants by exercising “unprecedented overreach.”

“Aside from being blatantly unconstitutional, this executive action is a slap in the face to the millions of undocumented immigrants who waited their turn and took the legal avenue to enter the United States,” Meadows said, in a message posted to constituents on his Facebook page.

“It is clear our immigration system needs drastic reforms beginning with real border security,” McHenry said in a news release. “These reforms can be accomplished through bipartisan negotiations, not unilateral executive decree.”

U.S. Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC) represents the 5th District, which includes Boone and Watauga County

“Breaking the law to enter the United States should not be rewarded, but that’s exactly what President Obama did when he announced plans to grant amnesty to millions of illegal aliens through executive actions,” Foxx said in a news release. “This legislation will put a stop to the president’s unlawful, unilateral actions, which are a blatant overreach of his Constitutionally-granted executive authority.”

Fresh off midterm elections and less than two weeks after convening for the 114th Congress, the potential for backlash against members for their stances on the issue in their home districts appears minimal. Kenneth Fernandez, assistant professor of political science and policy studies at Elon University, said the relative safety of Meadows, McHenry and Foxx’s districts, combined with a small population of Latino voters statewide, offered the members few reasons to worry.

“In North Carolina, Latino voters comprise a moderate percentage of the electorate, but it’s not high,” Fernandez said in an interview with Carolina Public Press. “It’s growing, but so far in North Carolina Republicans don’t seem to have paid enormous consequences for stances on immigration.”

Latino voters in North Carolina

According to the North Carolina State Board of Elections, there are 120,593 registered Hispanic voters across the state, making up just shy of 2 percent of the 6.6 million registered voters statewide. The number of registered Latinos has increased more than twelve-fold since 2004, according to research by the Pew Research Hispanic Trends Project.

During the presidential election a decade ago, 10,000 Latinos were registered to vote in North Carolina.

The growing of the Hispanic population across the state, which ranks 11th in the nation for Latinos, is largely comprised of younger voters, ages 18 to 29. Roughly 25 percent of the state’s Latino eligible voters are naturalized U.S. citizens.

Along with repealing Obama’s executive actions, the House bill included an amendment geared at ending the 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which has allowed, among other things, work permits to be issued to more than 600,000 immigrants who originally came to the U.S. illegally as children. A group of 26 Republicans defected from their party on the amendment, including Rep. Renee Ellmers, who represents North Carolina’s 2nd Congressional District.

MORE: Few ‘deferred action’ immigrant students attending WNC schools

As the only Republican from North Carolina to vote “no” on the bill, Ellmers suggested the measure was “overly broad in scope” and could have long-term negative impact on jobs and families in the state, according to the (Raleigh) News & Observer.

Meadows, McHenry and Foxx offered sparse comment on their support for ending the deferred action program. Offices for all three members declined to respond to questions relayed by Carolina Public Press regarding the issue.

Fernandez said Meadows, McHenry and Foxx would not likely be forced to strongly defend their positions on the issue, save for the possibility of a primary challenger down the road.

“Many of these lawmakers are in pretty safe seats,” Fernandez said. “They will need to be able to justify their votes when answering to constituents, but most of them feel justified in their voting because they see Obama’s approach as being the wrong one. That way they are able to switch the agenda to being about the president’s bad policy, with the most general threat to them being the chance a pro-immigration conservative runs against them in the primary.”

The Senate is expected to begin work on the House bill in coming days.

James Harrison

James Harrison is a contributing reporter with Carolina Public Press. Reach him at jharrison@carolinapublicpress.org.

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