The House on Friday passed legislation aimed at curbing President Obama’s use of executive authority to slow deportations of young people who arrived here as children.
The bill passed 216-192, with 11 Republicans voting against it and four Democrats voting in favor of the measure.
The legislation was part of a deal to get enough support from conservative Republicans on a $694 million package to deal with the surge in migrants on the border.
Republicans have blamed the recent southern border surge of child migrants on Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, known as DACA. Obama signed the executive order in 2012 in response to a failure by Congress to pass “Dream Act” legislation that would provide legal status to young people who came here as children.
The House bill would block funding for continuation or expansion of the DACA program, a move Republicans said will discourage young migrants from trying to cross the border into the United States.
During the House floor debate, Republicans argued that the DACA program is luring tens of thousands of child migrants on a treacherous journey to America and it is also drawing thousands of adults who view Obama’s slowed actions on deportation as an invitation. Federal officials estimate 90,000 unaccompanied children will cross the border this year.
“It 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,” House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., said.
Democrats called the bill inhumane. They said if it is enacted, it would revert to illegal status the 700,000 young people who have participated in the program. It would also prevent expansion of DACA to include families of the young people who came here illegally as children.
Those who are in the program now must reapply after two years and this bill would block money for that as well.
“So basically, this bill will have the effect of removing DACA from the dreamers and making them deportable,” said Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., the top Democrat on the Judiciary panel.
The president enacted DACA in 2012, months before the presidential election that was won by Obama in part with the support of the Hispanic vote.
Republicans said DACA is a key example of Obama’s executive overreach and that a vote to end money for the program would send the president a message that he must consult with Congress before changing the law.
“What this says is Mr. President, stop violating the Constitution from this point forward,” Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, said.