In a vote likely to exacerbate their party’s demographic problems, House Republicans passed legislation on Friday night to effectively require the deportation of everyone in the U.S. illegally, including young people brought as children who attended college or joined the military.
It passed by a vote of 216 to 192. Eleven Republicans voted no and four Democrats voted yes.
The bill serves a symbolic rebuke of President Barack Obama for his current and upcoming executive actions to relieve certain undocumented immigrants from the threat of deportation. It passed shortly after the House passed 223-189 a separate GOP-led border funding proposal, which gives House Republicans the opportunity to go home for recess and say they acted on the child migrant crisis.
“In the end, the Republican position on immigration can be summed up as: deport ’em all,” said Rep. Luis Gutiérrez (D-IL). “You know it is suicide as a political strategy, but you continue to say deport ’em all.”
Both bills are dead on arrival in the Senate. Obama slammed them as “extreme and unworkable” and promised to veto them if they land on his desk.
The first bill provides $694 million to deal with the influx of child migrants from Central America and change the law so U.S. officials can quickly send them home. The second bill ends the president’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program for the roughly 550,000 who have benefited and prohibits the U.S. from granting work permits to anyone in the country illegally.
“The president knows that it is a usurpation of congressional authority,” House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) said, pointing out that Obama had expressed doubt about his authority to grant deportation relief long before he rolled out DACA.
House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA) blamed DACA for the influx of unaccompanied minors from Central America. “This has been the magnet that’s led to the flood of people coming across our border,” he said. “We have got to stop having this kind of message go out.”
Reps. Steve King (R-IA) and Michele Bachmann (R-MN) raved about the bills and took credit for persuading Republican leaders to bring them up after an ill-fated attempt on Thursday to passed less far-reaching versions of the same proposals. The anti-Dreamer legislation was offered by Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) and mirrors a plan pushed by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX).
“Mr. President, stop violating the Constitution,” declared King, saying Obama has acted like a “king” and not a president.
The vote marks the third time in the 113th Congress that House Republicans have passed legislation that would, effectively, require the deportation of so-called Dreamers. They are the only immigration-related bills that have been allowed votes in the full House in 2013 or 2014.
“This, in all honesty and candor, is one of the most mean-spirited and anti-immigrant pieces of legislation I’ve seen in all of my years in the Congress,” said Rep. John Conyers (MI), the top Democrat on the Judiciary Committee.
It was a remarkable move for Republicans after national party leaders warned in the wake of the 2012 election that they would have to broaden the party’s appeal to Hispanics in order to stay competitive nationally. It is also a startling defeat for Speaker John Boehner’s (R-OH) efforts to persuade his members to embrace immigration reform after Obama’s reelection. Instead House Republicans have decided to play to their immigration-weary conservative base, which fiercely opposes any form of leniency for people in the U.S. illegally.
The vote was one of the first acts of the new post-Eric Cantor leadership team featuring new House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) and Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA). It foreshadows an explosive battle between Obama and the GOP once the president unveils his next executive actions, expected by the end of summer, to temporarily shield potentially millions of low-priority undocumented immigrants from deportation.
“Where are our hearts?” said Rep. John Lewis (D-GA), a civil rights hero, in a fiery floor speech. “Where are our souls?”