Rep. Brian Bilbray, California Republican, is one of the most outspoken in Congress on immigration matters.
Bilbray is head of the Immigration Reform Caucus, a 96-member group founded by former Colorado Republican Rep. Tom Tancredo that is focused on stopping illegal immigration.
Bilbray is particularly exercised about the so-called “DREAM Act,” legislation that would grant amnesty to illegal immigrants if they came to the United States before they were 16 and attend college for two years or serve in the military.
“This talk of amnesty is not only an insult to every American who has come to the United States legally and the millions who wait patiently while playing by the rules,” Bilbray said in an op-ed in The Hill.
“The first thing you don’t do is reward those illegal employers with a steady supply of those illegal immigrants by giving them amnesty so they can stay in work for the people that create the problem,” Bilbray said in a debate on John King’s show on CNN.
But when the legislation came to a vote in the House on Wednesday night, Bilbray’s voice was silent.
You see, Bilbray was in California at the time.
Bilbray’s son Brian, 25, recently won a seat on the Imperial Beach city council, where Congressman Bilbray got his start in politics. Big Bilbray swore little Bilbray in. It was a special family moment.
Rep. Bilbray was on a red-eye plane back to Washington that evening, but too late to record his vote on the DREAM Act.
Granted, Republicans like Bilbray didn’t necessarily know if Democrats would bring the key immigration bill up for a vote on Wednesday.
That morning, at 9:44 a.m., House Minority Leader John Boehner’s staff sent an alert that the legislation only might come up for a vote, not that it would for sure.
“DREAM Act: After consideration of the CR, the House may begin debate of H.R. 6497 – Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act of 2010 (Rep. Berman – Judiciary),” the Floor Update email says.
Bilbray, for his part, blamed the Democrats for springing the vote on Congress without ample warning – “exactly why Americans are frustrated with their government.”
“House Democrats catapulted the DREAM Act out of the back-room where they have been hiding from the American people,” said Bilbray spokesman Travis Considine.
“They continued their streak of manipulating the legislative process and lack of transparency by bringing to the floor a bill that wasn’t afforded a single Congressional hearing and required the House rules to be changed to debate the bill with less than 24 hours notice,” Considine said.
However, though it wasn’t absolutely certain when Bilbray flew out West the DREAM Act was up for a vote that evening, Bilbray did know there were at least eight bills and two resolutions he would miss votes on, including Democrats putting the House under “martial law” to speed their lame duck agenda.