This was a vote on an amendment offered by Rep. King (R-IA) to H.R. 2892, the bill providing funding for the Department of Homeland Security for the 2010 fiscal year. The King Amendment contained language that would prohibit the Department of Homeland Security from hiring any illegal immigrants.
King noted that it was already a federal crime to knowingly hire or employ an illegal immigrant. He then said: “(D)espite the law, over 8 million illegal immigrants currently have jobs in the United States, and some of those are no doubt employed by and with Department of Homeland Security funds under Federal contracts.” King cited a 2006 report that he said “indicates that the U.S. Government was the Nation's most egregious employer of illegal aliens . . . and (that) 3 percent of government workers had no immigration status whatsoever.”
King argued: “(T)hese numbers are alarming. The report raises a national security issue. The report states, ‘Noncitizens who work without Department of Homeland Security authorization could affect homeland security because they may obtain employment in sensitive areas.’” King also said that the national unemployment rate “for lower-skilled American workers today is at over 15 percent. Congress should do anything possible to end the hiring of illegal immigrants and save those jobs for American workers.”
Rep. Lofgren (D-CA), who chairs the House Judiciary Committee Immigration Subcommittee, took the floor to point out that the Immigration and Nationality Act already prohibited any employer from hiring an illegal immigrant. She said the language of the amendment is just “a restatement of existing law (and) . . . is not necessary”. King responded that the language of his amendment “reinforces and reiterates a policy”. A number of Democratic Members saw the amendment as suggesting an anti-immigration view, since it dealt with illegal immigration and was offered although it made no changes in existing law.
The amendment passed by a vote of 349-84. All one hundred and seventy-seven Republicans were joined by one hundred and seventy-two Democrats in voting “aye”. All eighty-four “nay” votes were case by Democrats, including the majority of the most progressive Members. As a result of the vote, language specifically prohibiting the hiring of illegal aliens by the Department of Homeland Security was added to the bill funding the department for fiscal year 2010.