Vice President Joe Biden blasted House Republicans Thursday for voting to end deferred deportations of young, undocumented immigrants and offered an impassioned plea for immigration reform as the Senate takes action on the bill in the coming days.
"We have nothing to apologize for when we fight for the morally right thing," Biden said forcefully at the National Hispanic Prayer Breakfast in Washington. "It is a practically, economically sound thing for America to do."
"The last 10 yards are by far the hardest," he also said, signaling the country is close to reaching reform. "They really are. This is the tough, tough time."
While the Senate appears to be on the heels of voting for a bipartisan measure that offers a 13-year path to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants in the country, the GOP-controlled House of Representatives has made it clear that an immigration bill will have a rocky future in their hands.
Conservative Republicans are strongly pushing for provisions in the bill that will ensure tougher border security rules are met before immigrants can pursue legal pathways. A group of senators reached an agreement Wednesday night on an amendment that would significantly boost the number of border troops.
"The entire effort of immigration reform hinges on whether or not we get the border security parts of the bill right, and if you look at what's being proposed here this is a dramatic expansion an improvement on border security," Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Florida, said Thursday on Fox News.
But House Speaker John Boehner said Tuesday he doesn't "see any way" of bringing a bill to the floor that doesn't already have support from a majority of Republicans.
In his animated, nearly half-hour long speech Thursday, Biden acknowledged every country "has a right to defend its borders," calling it "essential."
"But it's time we pass fair--firm but fair--reforms to bring these 11 million undocumented immigrants out of the shadows," he argued.
Biden grew most heated when talking about the House Republicans' vote two weeks ago to end President Barack Obama's decision that allows some undocumented immigrants to put off deportation for two years, if they meet certain requirements.
The measure was sponsored by Rep. Steve King, an Iowa Republican who has long voiced fierce opposition to illegal immigration. While the bill had big support from Republicans, the measure has no chance of going anywhere in the Democrat-controlled Senate.
But Biden argued the vote was a symbolic gesture that cuts at the heart of the American spirit. The young immigrants who were brought to the U.S. when they were young would be sent back to places "they've never seen" and where they may not speak the native language or dialect, Biden said. "What do (Republicans) think?"
King and other Republicans, Biden said, fail to understand that "these aren't just Hispanic children."
"These are our children, the kite strings which lift our national ambitions aloft. That's who they are," Biden said to strong applause. "Many of these same representatives talk about their Christianity and their fidelity to the Bible, but they forget Matthew Chapter 25, Verse 34, where scripture teaches us: 'I was hungry, you gave me food. I was thirsty, you gave me drink. I was a stranger and you welcomed me'."