Dozens of House Democrats on Wednesday voted against a legislative proposal aimed at ensuring that illegal immigrants convicted of domestic violence, sexual abuse or child abuse are a priority for deportation.
The vote suggests that immigration-related issues trump other traditional Democratic priorities, such as efforts to protect people from sex or violence-related crimes, especially against women.
Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.) proposed the language as an amendment to the Department of Homeland Security spending bill. He argued it was needed because Obama’s executive action on immigration created different priorities for deportation that need to be adjusted.
For example, illegal immigrants suspected of terrorism or espionage or other felonies are top priorities for deportation. But illegal immigrants who are convicted of three or more misdemeanors, or one “significant” misdemeanor such as sexual abuse or domestic violence, are on a second tier priority for deportation.
On Wednesday, House Republicans put forward the DeSantis amendment to prioritize the deportation of illegal immigrants convicted of domestic violence, sexual abuse or child abuse. But they were met by significant Democratic opposition, including from House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who is widely seen as a champion of women’s issues.
Pelosi explained that she opposed the amendment because it was opposed by the National Catholic Conference of Bishops. That group said generally that it opposed all efforts to stop the Obama administration from implementing its immigration plan, and that it could somehow create obstacles to the reporting of domestic violence among immigrants.
“While presented as a measure that helps domestic violence victims, we fear that it actually would discourage many such victims from reporting abuse,” the group wrote, in a letter Pelosi read on the House floor.
Rep. Donna Edwards (D-Md.) also explained that in many domestic violence cases involving illegal immigrants, police arrest both the abuser and the victim, and both can end up pleading to a misdemeanor just to speed up the process. “This happens all the time, all around the country,” she argued.
As a result, she said the GOP language could end up hurting victims as well as abusers.
Those arguments were met with disbelief from Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.), who sponsored the amendment. DeSantis said he was “perplexed” why anyone would vote against the amendment.
“Why would we have any tolerance for child molesters?” Desalts said. “If you’re not in our country legally, and you get convicted of an offense like that, you should be gone. We shouldn’t even be discussing this.”
“I think the people who are going to vote ‘no’ on this are basically saying, ‘we don’t want a zero-tolerance policy against child molesters and sexual offenders,’ ” he added.
In the end, the House approved the DeSantis amendment 278-149 vote. Thirty-five Democrats voted with Republicans on this measure, and one Republican voted against it.
But that left 148 Democrats voting against it. Below are all the “no” votes on the DeSantis amendment — all but one of them, Rep. Renee Ellmers (R-N.C.), are Democrats: