SACRAMENTO (AP) — U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein said Thursday she won’t vote for a stopgap spending measure to keep the federal government open if it doesn’t include protections for young immigrants brought to the country illegally as children.
Immigrant groups hailed her comments as a victory after organizing protests outside of her office urging her not to back a bill that didn’t include legislation known as the “Dream Act,” which would give those young immigrants a path to citizenship.
Her commitment also came a day after her rival in the 2018 Democratic primary, state Senate leader Kevin de Leon, held a news conference calling her “AWOL” on the matter.
President Donald Trump earlier this year halted a program protecting about 800,000 young immigrants from deportation, and Congress has until March to take action to renew it or pass a different bill. Roughly 200,000 participants in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program live in California.
“I’ve talked with them, I’ve met them, I understand their plight and it breaks my heart,” Feinstein said in a statement announcing her opposition to the spending bill. “To allow these young people to suffer is tragic.”
Feinstein is also resisting the spending measure because it lacks funding for a children’s health insurance program that serves roughly 9 million low-income kids.
Congress must pass a spending bill by midnight Friday to avert a government shutdown.
Feinstein’s opposition won’t stop it from passing; it needs 60 votes in the Senate and Democratic leader Sen. Chuck Schumer said he’s committed to passing it. But a no vote from Feinstein and others will keep a spotlight on calls to pass the Dream Act and children’s health insurance funding early next year.
“We’re starting to see the benefits of our community coming together and putting that pressure on our representatives here in California,” said Jorge Herrera of the “Our Dream” campaign, one of several groups that organized protests outside congressional offices.
De Leon, of Los Angeles, has seized on the issue to criticize Feinstein in his bid to unseat her. Feinstein has been in office since 1992.
“We can’t claim to be the party that fights for the marginalized, the most vulnerable, that fights for immigrants, communities of color, if we don’t back it up with action when it counts,” de Leon said Wednesday. “She’s AWOL. She’s nowhere to be counted.”
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