WASHINGTON – House Republicans passed legislation late Friday to address the crisis on the U.S.-Mexico border by sending migrant youths back home without hearings, after winning over conservatives with tough new provisions that could lead to deporting more than half a million immigrants whom the Obama administration granted temporary work permits.
President Barack Obama condemned the Republican action and said he’d act unilaterally, as best he could.
A day after GOP leaders pulled the border bill from the floor in a chaotic retreat, tea party lawmakers were enthusiastically on board with the new $694 million version and a companion measure that would shut off a program created by Obama granting work permits to immigrants brought here illegally as kids.
The spending bill passed 223-189 late Friday, with only four Republicans voting no and one Democrat voting yes. Republicans also passed legislation to shut down a program by Obama granting deportation relief to immigrants brought here illegally as kids.
The legislation that passed 216-192 late Friday could put more than 700,000 immigrants who’ve received temporary work permits in line for deportation.
It also would block Obama from awarding work permits to other immigrants here illegally.
The Senate has already adjourned for Congress’ summer recess, so neither bill stands a chance of becoming law.
It’s dealing with the issue that the American people care about more than any other, and that is stopping the invasion of illegal foreign nationals into our country, said Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn. And we got to yes.
But Obama said no. They’re not even trying to solve the problem, the president said. I’m going to have to act alone, because we do not have enough resources.
Obama said he would reallocate resources where he could, while making clear his options were limited without congressional action.
The moves in the House came on what was to have been the first day of lawmakers’ five-week summer recess, delayed by GOP leaders after their vote plans unexpectedly collapsed Thursday. But three months before midterm elections, House Republicans were determined to show that they, at least, could take action to address the crisis involving tens of thousands of unaccompanied minors fleeing violence and poverty in Central America to cross illegally into South Texas.
To reach a deal, GOP leaders had to satisfy the demands of a group of a dozen or more conservative lawmakers who were meeting behind the scenes with Sens. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., and taking their cues from outside groups such as the Heritage Foundation that opposed earlier versions of the legislation.
These lawmakers objected to sending any more money to Obama without a strong stance against his 2-year-old deportation relief program, which Republicans blame for causing the current border crisis by creating the perception that once here, young migrants would be allowed to stay – a point the administration disputes.
The new GOP border bill adds $35 million more for the National Guard, which would go to reimburse states for Guard deployments. Like earlier versions, it would increase spending for overwhelmed border agencies, add more immigration judges and detention spaces, and alter a 2008 anti-trafficking law to permit Central American kids to be sent back home without deportation hearings. That process is currently permitted only for unaccompanied minors arriving from Mexico and Canada.
The bill would pay for strapped border agencies only for the final two months of this budget year, falling far short of the $3.7 billion Obama initially requested to deal with the crisis into next year. More than 57,000 unaccompanied youths have arrived since October, mostly from El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala, plus tens of thousands more migrants traveling as families.