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Grijalva vows to block spending bill without immigration protections

Rep. Raul Grijalva, D-Ariz., speaks during the first day of the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia , Monday, July 25, 2016. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

LISTEN: Grijalva vows to block spending bill without immigration protections

PHOENIX — Congress has to approve a government spending bill by next Friday to keep the government running, but a government shutdown could be looming over immigration.

Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.) said he and dozens of other Democrats won’t vote for the government spending bill unless it includes a legislative fix for so-called DREAMers, a move another Arizona congressman is calling “a grave mistake.”

“If you meet these young people, if you speak with them, if you understand how eager they are to continue to contribute to this great country of ours, you would understand why not only I support them,” Grijalva said.

“A majority of the American people, regardless of party affiliation, strongly believe that we should not kick these kids out of the country.”

DREAMer was the term given to young, undocumented immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children.

Many of those immigrants are recipients of the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which offers work permits and protection from deportation to more than 25,000 people in Arizona alone.

President Donald Trump ended the program in September, but gave Congress until March to pass a legislative replacement.

Grijalva said he’s calling for the spending bill to include a clean DREAM Act bill — without immigration enforcement provisions attached. The bill would pave a path to citizenship for those immigrants.

He said Republicans hold the majority in the House and could bring up their own immigration enforcement legislation that would be separate from the DREAM Act.

“Bring it to the floor and let’s have a debate,” he said. “But keep the DREAM Act separate. Don’t hold these kids hostage for some enforcement item that you have the power to bring to the floor any time you want.”

But Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.) said it would be “a grave mistake to add DACA reform to the spending bill.”

He called it encouraging that House Speaker Paul Ryan indicated the spending bill would not include language tied to the DACA program.

“Congress should pass single-subject legislation, which maximizes the transparency of our votes to constituents,” he said.

Biggs added that any immigration reform legislation that is considered should include language to secure the border, build the U.S.-Mexico border wall, increase the number of Border Patrol agents and augment technology along the border.

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