Don’t put illegal immigrants ahead of legal immigrants: amendment.
By Sujeet Rajan
WASHINGTON, DC: The immigration debate, how many immigrants to accommodate and whether or not to let them work in the US, looms as a messy, contentious fight on Capitol Hill this year, as the House voted on Wednesday to block President Barack Obama’s executive orders issued last year on stopping deportations of illegal immigrants and giving work permits to almost five million of them.
Before the bill to fund the Department of Homeland Security through September of this year was introduced in the House today, Speaker John Boehner lambasted Obama on the executive orders announced in November. He cited 22 times when Obama said he didn’t have the authority to go against the constitution and rewrite immigration laws.
“We are dealing with a president who has ignored the people, ignored the Constitution, and even his own past statements,” Boehner said.
The bill to fund the Department of Homeland Security – which oversees all immigration aspect activities too, from issuing visas and work permits to implementing border security and deportations – through September of this year with an almost $40 billion budget, was passed 236-191 vote, with 10 Republicans voting against it and two Democrats voting in favor.
There were five amendments in the bill which the Democrats fought hard to stave off. The Republicans secured all of them, though one amendment, to halt the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Program (DACA), which gives reprieve from deportations to illegal immigrants who came to the country as children, had a close call, but finally prevailed in a vote of 218-209. Twenty six Republicans voted against the amendment, indicating that there is friction within the party on how best to assuage party leadership, while not alienating constituents.
Another amendment to cut funding for the DHS to implement Obama’s executive orders to give work permits to almost five million illegal immigrants, had a much more smooth passage despite opposition from the Democrats. It passed with a 237-190 vote, with only seven Republicans opposing it.
Three other amendments that also got approved were: to prioritize deportation for illegal immigrants convicted of sexual abuse and domestic violence; promote the hiring of U.S. citizens above illegal immigrants; and to stop putting the interest of legal immigrants behind illegal immigrants.
The DHS funding bill includes $10.7 billion for Customs and Border Protection, an increase of nearly $119 million from last year, and nearly $6 billion for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, an increase of $689 million. The bill provides about $753 million for cybersecurity operations, which interestingly is $39 million less from 2014.
The bill now goes to the Senate for consideration. If the Senate does not approve it, then they must come up with their own version of the bill, and it would then have to be reconciled with the House bill. A final bill would then be sent to Obama to sign into law. The president has already expressed that he intends to veto any bill that would seek to strike down his executive orders. The stalemate can only last till February 27. DHS would shut down automatically for lack of funds if no action is taken by then.
Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) accused Republicans of “picking an unnecessary political fight” and vowed the House bill “will not pass the Senate,” reported The Hill, today.
“Tearing families apart does nothing to secure our borders, fix our broken immigration system or strengthen our economy. This is not a game and it is time for Republicans to take their responsibility to govern seriously, instead of playing to the most extreme voices in their party,” Reid was quoted as saying.