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Showered in boos, Republicans feed Democratic immigration reform fears

House Republicans on Thursday voted to strip administrative protection from the young undocumented immigrants whom President Obama sought to shield from deportation last year. The move played to Democratic concerns that the GOP isn't serious about immigration reform.

By Staff writer / June 6, 2013

Ricky Campos (l.) and Katye Hernandez, both illegal immigrants originally from El Salvador, hold signs saying 'Thank You President Obama' in Washington after Mr. Obama announced his Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals plan last year.

Jacquelyn Martin/AP/File

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Washington

House Republicans approved legislation Thursday that amounted to a punch in the gut to Democrats already skeptical of the GOP’s commitment to immigration reform.

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The measure, which was approved almost entirely along party lines , would strip administrative protection from the young undocumented immigrants whom President Obama had sought to shield with two-year deportation deferrals last year. 

The 244-to-201 vote, in which three conservative Democrats sided with the GOP and six Republicans joined the Democrats, does not mean the death of Mr. Obama's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), since the Senate will likely not back the House's action.

Moreover, it is not necessarily a sign that immigration reform is doomed in the House. Many House Republicans – including House majority leader Eric Cantor of Virginia – might agree with the intent of DACA, but wanted to rebuke the White House for how it acted. Essentially, Republicans say, Obama did an unconstitutional end run around Congress.

But at a time when House lawmakers working on immigration legislation have spoken about how amicable the discussions have been, the move Thursday was a stark reminder of the emotional nature of the issue – and that, despite immigration reform's relatively smooth sailing so far, potent political issues remain.

Sen. Dick Durbin (D) of Illinois, who has long championed the cause of undocumented young people, looked ill when reporters told him about the vote Thursday afternoon.

“I just want to tell you how disappointed I am,” said Senator Durbin, a member of his body’s bipartisan “Gang of Eight” immigration reformers. “I cannot believe that they did that. It was a really mean-spirited thing.”

The measure, offered by immigration hardliner Rep. Steve King (R) of Iowa, was an amendment to an otherwise largely uncontroversial appropriations bill for the Department of Homeland Security. A similar version of Representative King's passed (and subsequently died) last year. But that came just days before Mr. Obama announced DACA. Through May, more than 500,000 undocumented immigrants had applied for the two-year deferral.

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