House GOP’s border bill would spur deportations
WASHINGTON — House Republicans revived their bill on the US-Mexico border crisis in dramatic fashion Friday, passing it on a near party-line vote after winning conservatives with tough new provisions that could threaten deportation for hundreds of thousands of immigrants already working in this country legally.
President Obama condemned the Republican action and said he would act unilaterally, as best he could.
A day after Republican 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 children.
The second bill also seemed designed to prevent the more than 700,000 people who have obtained permits under the program from renewing them, ultimately making them subject to deportation.
The spending bill passed 223-189 late Friday, with only four Republicans voting ‘‘no’’ and one Democrat voting ‘‘yes.’’ The measure ending the deportation relief program passed 216-192.
‘‘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 Representative Michele Bachmann, a Republican of Minnesota. ‘‘And we got to yes.’’
But Obama said no. ‘‘They’re not even trying to solve the problem,’’ the president said at a news conference. ‘‘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 Republican leaders after their vote plans unexpectedly collapsed Thursday.
Senators had already left Washington after killing their own legislation on the border crisis, so there was no prospect of reaching a final deal.
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.
‘‘It would be irresponsible and unstatesmanlike to head home for the month without passing a bill to address this serious, present crisis on the border,’’ said Representative Hal Rogers, a Kentucky Republican leading the Appropriations Committee.
To reach a deal, Republican leaders had to satisfy the demands of a group of a dozen or more conservative lawmakers who met behind the scenes with GOP Senators Ted Cruz of Texas and Jeff Sessions of Alabama, and taking cues from outside groups such as the Heritage Foundation that opposed earlier versions of the bill.
These lawmakers objected to sending any more money to Obama without a strong stance against his two-year-old deportation relief program, which Republicans blame for causing the current border crisis by creating the perception that once here, young immigrants would be allowed to stay, which the administration disputes.
House GOP leaders agreed earlier in the week to hold a separate vote to prevent Obama from expanding the deportation relief program, but that did not satisfy conservatives who sought stronger steps.
Thursday night, those lawmakers huddled in the basement of the Capitol with new House majority whip Steve Scalise, a Louisiana Republican,, until coming up with a deal ending funding for the deportation relief program as well as making changes to the border bill aimed at ensuring the faster removal of the Central American immigrant youths.
The GOP plan met with protests from immigration advocates and Democrats, who warned Republicans that they would alienate Hispanic voters for years to come. ‘‘This, in all honesty and candor, is one of the most mean-spirited and anti-immigrant pieces of legislation I've seen in all my years in the Congress,’’ said longtime Representative John Conyers, Democrat of Michigan.
Democrats also accused Republicans of handing control of their policies to the most conservative lawmakers in the House.