WASHINGTON—The U.S. House of Representatives adjourned for a five-week recess after passing two bills that address the U.S.-Mexico border crisis but have virtually no chance of becoming law.
The legislation comes in response to the influx of Central American migrants at the Southern border, many of whom are turning themselves in to seek asylum—which requires federal detention capacity. One of the bills approved Friday would appropriate $200 million for housing and “humanitarian assistance,” $400 million for border security, and $70 million for states to send National Guard troops to the border. But it would not address the overwhelmed U.S. immigration court system.
The $694 million supplemental spending package was less than one-fifth of the $3.7 billion funding request President Barack Obama made last month. Obama on Friday blamed House Republicans for not considering a serious solution, saying, “I’m going to have to act alone, because we don’t have enough resources.”
But House Republicans blasted Senate Democrats for not coming up with their own solution: On Thursday, a procedural vote to get a much larger border bill to the Senate floor failed, but the Senate adjourned for recess anyway. No votes are scheduled until early September.
“The House is the only body that has done its job and shown real leadership in solving this crisis by securing the border and enforcing the rule of law,” said House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La.
The House action included changing a 2008 anti-trafficking law that Republicans said helped cause the problem. The bill would allow the federal government to deport immigrant children faster, closing what Republicans said was a loophole.
The House also approved a controversial measure attempting to stop President Obama from issuing new or renewed work permits to immigrants who were brought to the United States illegally by their parents. In 2012, Obama signed an executive order known as DACA—Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals—that halted deportation for children of illegal immigrants. The order only applied to young people who arrived before 2007, but Republicans say it contributed to the recent uptick in unaccompanied minors coming to the United States.
Democrats and immigrant advocates called the House action an affront to American values. “It is a sad day for our country,” said Thomas Wenski with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, which condemned the legislation. “A chamber of Congress is poised to send vulnerable children back to danger and possible death. It violates our commitment to human rights and due process of the law and lessens us as a nation.”
Anti-immigration organizations, including NumbersUSA, a group that advocates for population control via restrictionist immigration polices, hailed the legislation as a major victory. An Associated Press poll released Tuesday showed 53 percent of Americans feel no moral obligation to treat those fleeing violence or political strife as refugees.
Even though the bills are unlikely to become law, they could play a role in the mid-term elections this fall. Republicans already face dwindling support among Hispanic voters, and Democrats likely will campaign on the GOP’s latest, strong anti-immigration statement.