Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard, the Democrat whose district in Southern California has one of the highest rates of Latino residents in the country, has been picked to be the House Democrats’ point person in negotiations over the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) budget bill.
Democrats on the House Appropriations Committee approved the selection of Roybal-Allard, who would be the first Latina to hold the powerful position of ranking member of the House Appropriations subcommittee. The Democratic Leadership and caucus must ratify the decision, according to Politico.
The choice of Roybal-Allard stands to give “Latino voters a human face and voice at the bargaining table as never before in Congress,” Politico noted. “She represents a powerful historic symbol at a time when the same bill is caught in a bitter fight over immigration policy between Republicans and President Barack Obama.”
A Homeland Security budget bill is at the center of a bitter fight between Democrats and Republicans over the parts of it that would defund portions of an executive order by President Obama suspending deportation for three years for some 5 million undocumented immigrants, as well as enabling them to obtain work permits and driver’s licenses.
House Republicans recently attached language to the must-pass spending bill for the DHS, but the measure faces near-certain death in the Senate – where Democrats have enough support to prevent the measure from coming to a vote – leaving Republicans still searching for a way to stop the president.
Politico quoted Roybal-Allard as saying that a priority of hers, if her selection is ratified, would be the well-being of children whose parents are detained or deported.
“That’s a huge part for me because … a large percentage of these children are American citizens who end up in foster care and lose their parents,” Roybal-Allard said. “And so that is going to definitely be a focus of mine, not just in terms of children but, as much as possible, holding families together.”
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, another California Democrat, praised Roybal-Allard.
“Congress is strongest when it recognizes the full diversity of perspectives, experiences and backgrounds that is America,” Pelosi said in a statement. “As Congresswoman Roybal-Allard becomes the first Latina ever to serve as a ranking member or chair of an appropriations subcommittee, we are proud that this moment in history belongs to such an experienced and dedicated member of the Democratic Caucus.”
Pelosi said Roybal-Allard has been a long-time advocate for immigrants.
“As the original author of the DREAM Act,” she said, “Congresswoman Roybal-Allard has been a consistent champion for restoring compassion and accountability to our broken immigration system and for the security of the American people.”
Robyal-Allard, who represents several suburban communities of Los Angeles, was the first Mexican-American woman elected to Congress. She has served in the House since 1993.
Her father is the late Rep. Edward Roybal, who founded the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and received the Medal of Freedom posthumously in November. He served in Congress for about 30 years.
Politico said that in a House Appropriations meeting last June, Roybal-Allard said that something had to be done about the high rate of deportations and its impact on families. She said Congress had to stop stalling and work on a comprehensive immigration reform bill.
“These children cannot wait until we get around to doing that,” she said. “Their families and their lives are being impacted right now. Because their parents are being deported, right now we have approximately 5,000 American children who are currently in the child welfare system because of the deportation of a parent.”
“The fear of losing a parent to deportation has a number of negative consequences for the mental health of American children including severe anxiety and withdrawal.”
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