After a fiery floor debate, House Republicans voted Friday night to prohibit the Obama administration from renewing or expanding a federal program that currently gives thousands of undocumented young immigrants with strong ties the United States an opportunity to stay and work.
Since being announced by President Barack Obama in 2012, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program has granted deportation reprieve and work permits to an estimated 553,200 undocumented young immigrants. But under the Republican bill approved Friday, the current beneficiaries of the DACA program would not be able to renew their status in the program.
This does not deport anybody, Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) said on the House floor of the bill. This just restores the constitutional authority of the United States Congress, and it says, President Obama, dont continue to violate this Constitution.
The 216-192 vote to essentially end the DACA program was largely along party lines, with 11 Republicans voting against it. Among the House Republicans who voted against it are Mario Diaz-Balart of Florida, Jeff Denham of California, David Valadao of California, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida and Mike Coffman of Colorado.
The bill, however, is likely to go nowhere given that it wont be taken up by the Democratic-controlled Senate, which left on Thursday for the five-week August recess. In addition, Obama said on Friday that he would veto the bill.
The bill was approved shortly after House Republicans approved their $694 million emergency funding bill to address the influx of unaccompanied minors coming across the southern border. That bill seeks to deploy National Guard troops to the southern border and amends a 2008 anti-trafficking law to expedite the removal proceedings of children from Central America.
During a tense debate on the House floor over the bill to end DACA, House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) said DACA program was needed to send the vitally important message that minors tempted to come here in the future will no longer be reward by a president who choses to use his pen and cell phone to legislate.
Today [DACA] stands as a beacon for any unlawful immigrant to simply cross into the United States illegally because word has gotten out that they will be given permission to stay, Goodlatte said on the House floor. I heard this again and again from unlawful immigrants in Border Patrol custody when I visited the Rio Grand Valley earlier this month.
The bill sparked intense reaction from Democrats who have long defended Obamas decision to announce the DACA program. At times, they booed when tough-on-immigration Republicans criticized the DACA program.
House Judiciary ranking member John Conyers (D-Mich.) described the GOP bill as one of the most mean-spirited and anti-immigrant pieces of legislation I have seen in all my years of Congress.
Meanwhile, Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill) noted that in January, many House Republicans were in favor of an immigration reform bill that would allow Dreamers to get green cards and even citizenship.
Now, late on a Friday night you are going after the Dreamers who have known no other country, Gutierrez said. The United States said come forward and get right with the law, and now Republicans are saying they should go back in the shadows and back to a life of fear where opportunities are few and futures are uncertain.
Republicans fired back, criticizing Democrats for not passing an immigration reform bill when they had control of the House, Senate and White House. You failed to act, so dont point your fingers at us, said Rep. Raul Labrador (R-Idaho).