Politics & Government

Rep. Renee Ellmers breaks with GOP on immigration votes

Rep. Renee Ellmers of North Carolina was one of 10 Republicans who voted with Democrats on Wednesday against legislation that would roll back President Barack Obama’s executive actions on immigration.

The immigration provisions were attached to a bill that funds the Department of Homeland Security. The House of Representatives passed the bill, 236-191 along party lines. All but two Democrats voted against it.

While Ellmers criticized Obama’s executive actions, saying she would “fight tooth and nail to put a stop to his amnesty plan,” she said in a statement that the bill was “overly broad in scope, as it has the potential to have a real negative and lasting impact on jobs and families in North Carolina.”

“There are businesses in the Second District who contract with Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and many of these jobs could be put in jeopardy with the passing of this legislation,” Ellmers said in the statement her office issued in response to questions.

North Carolina’s other nine Republicans and three Democrats in the delegation voted with their parties.

Obama angered Republicans after they won control of Capitol Hill in November by circumventing Congress with his immigration executive orders. They vowed to block his efforts.

Ellmers, who agreed that the president had overstepped his authority, nonetheless was one of seven Republicans who opposed a measure that would undo his actions. They provide temporary relief from deportation for about 5 million illegal immigrants.

Ellmers said she also had concerns that the amendments to undo Obama’s actions on immigration “may remove protections for victims of sexual assault or domestic abuse.”

One of them, which Ellmers was the only Republican to vote down, would block funding for Department of Homeland Security programs if officials don’t make deportations of illegal immigrants convicted of domestic abuse, sexual abuse and other crimes a top priority.

She also was one of 26 Republicans who voted against an amendment that would eliminate the 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, which has granted work permits and stopped deportation of 600,000 immigrants who arrived illegally as children.

And she was one of just two Republicans who opposed a measure that objected to the exemption of DACA immigrants from the employer mandate in the Affordable Care Act.

Ellmers did support an amendment that declared that it was the sense of Congress that immigration officials should not put the interests of illegal immigrants ahead of those who were in the country with documentation.

Ellmers was elected in 2010 to represent the Second District, which is considered a safe Republican seat. Her district also doesn't have a large Latino population; just 12 percent, according to the 2012 Census. Last spring, in the Republican primary, her challenger, commentator Frank Roche, asserted that she favored amnesty. Ellmers denied it.

In an op-ed in The Fayetteville Observer in January 2014, Ellmers wrote that she supported stronger border security, as well as legal status for those who acknowledge entering the country illegally and make amends.

In her statement, Ellmers said she intended to be a “leading voice in the area of immigration reform.” She complained that she wasn’t included in discussions on the legislation, and that two amendments she offered that would have addressed her concerns were not given a vote.