Expansive House G.O.P. Immigration Bill Undercuts the President
by Foster, on News
WASHINGTON — House Republicans introduced legislation Friday that would roll back President Obama’s executive actions on immigration, undoing a provision that would allow five million undocumented immigrants to remain in the country and one that protects young people brought to the United States illegally by a parent.
The Republican plan, an effort to appease their more conservative members, would still finance most of the Department of Homeland Security.
The core of the bill provides $39.7 billion for Homeland Security, a $400 million increase from the previous fiscal year. House Republicans plan to offer an amendment to the legislation that will prevent any money — both under the appropriations process and through any fees collected from immigration applications — from being used for any of the president’s existing or future executive actions on immigration.
The plan Republicans ultimately supported, after a week of private meetings and behind-the-scenes discussions, is far more expansive than what the House leadership team anticipated. The Department of Homeland Security runs out of money at the end of February.
The repeal of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which under Mr. Obama’s 2012 order protected the young immigrants who call themselves Dreamers, could prove particularly contentious; roughly a dozen Republicans in a closed-door meeting Friday objected to such an approach. The bill is unlikely to pass the Senate. The president has also threatened to veto the legislation that undoes his executive action on immigration.
The vote served as a signal of how far House Republicans, emboldened by their midterm election victory, would go to confront Mr. Obama. It is a move that carries peril because the provision related to the Dreamers had broad appeal in the Latino community, an increasingly influential voting bloc.
Representative Matt Salmon, Republican of Arizona, said that the most conservative members supported the plan and that a handful of the more moderate members expressed concern.
“I think the direct phraseology was, ‘We were hoping it would be more of a rifle shot. This is more expansive,’ ” Mr. Salmon said. But, he added, “This is as close to one hundred percent as we’ve ever gotten on a tough issue like this.”
The Republican plan also would rein in several 2011 memos by the administration — known as the Morton memos — that significantly expanded what immigration authorities could consider when deciding to defer or cancel deportations.
And it would increase funds for the federal Secure Communities program. Under that program, fingerprints of every individual booked by the police were checked against Homeland Security databases, leading immigration authorities to initiate many deportations. The program faced growing resistance from immigrant advocates and states and was canceled by the president.
During the appropriations process at the end of last year, House Republicans insisted on offering only short-term funding for homeland security, to give themselves leverage to revisit the issue this year, when they control both chambers and believe they are in a better position to fight the president on his immigration directives.
“The American people were expecting the leadership to step up to the plate and not just make some kind of symbolic gesture in trying to address what the president did back in November, but try to go a step further,” said Representative Robert B. Aderholt, Republican of Alabama and a member of the House Appropriations Committee. “That’s what our language does, and what at the end of the day will garner a lot of support from our colleagues.”
However, the Senate is unlikely to pass the House’s initial legislative offering, and Mr. Obama is all but certain to veto it — setting up a showdown that could hold up financing for the entire department. Republicans on Friday were clear that they did not want to risk a shutdown of homeland security, forcing them to straddle a risky balance between funding most of the department while also stripping out money for the president’s unilateral immigration actions.
“We have to D.H.S. funded, it’s as simple as that,” said Peter T. King, Republican of New York.
Democrats and immigration activists were outraged, vowing to fight the Republican proposal.
“Join me and urge the speaker to refrain from serving red meat to the crowd by attaching defunding executive order language to the Homeland funding bill,” Representative Joaquin Castro, Democrat of Texas, wrote to colleagues. “Doing so is setting up another manufactured crisis on our national security, terrorism prevention and border security management.”
Frank Sharry, the executive director of America’s Voice, an immigration advocacy organization, criticized the House Republican leadership for allowing itself to be swayed by the conference’s most conservative members. He warned that the new proposal could alienate Hispanic voters in the 2016 presidential election.
“It is outrageous and it is noteworthy that the House leadership has embraced the most extreme proposals from the most extreme members of their caucus,” Mr. Sharry said. “It is nothing short of breathtaking that this is their first move coming out of the box in 2015 when they get the reins of power.”