WASHINGTON, DC --The House GOP wants to prevent President Barack Obama from using his executive powers to expand deportation deferrals for young immigrants not legally in the U.S.
A vote is possible Thursday on a bill introduced by Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., that would prohibit Obama from building on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, DACA, program which puts deportations on hold for two years for young immigrants in the U.S. illegally. The deferrals are renewable.
Blackburn's bill will get a vote if the House passes its $659 million spending bill to deal with the influx of children and families to the U.S.-Mexico border. Passage of the House bill was uncertain as it was facing opposition within the party from conservatives who feel it didn't go far enough. But the DACA measure could help build support for the spending bill from lawmakers who want to limit Obama's powers.
"The cause of the humanitarian crisis we are facing now is President Obama's lawlessness ... We still will not solve this humanitarian crisis unless and until we end President Obama's amnesty," Cruz said Wednesday evening.
At her weekly news conference House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said the DACA bill was intended to "sweeten the pie" for conservatives that she said Republicans "pander to."
The GOP proposal drew an angry response from the White House Thursday morning, saying DACA is the most significant progress toward immigration reform in years.
"It is extraordinary that the House of Representatives, after failing for more than a year to reform our broken immigration system, would vote to restrict a law enforcement tool that the Department of Homeland Security uses to focus resources on key enforcement priorities like public safety and border security, and provide temporary relief from deportation for people who are low priorities for removal," the White House said in a statement.
The move to prevent future DACA-like programs for other immigrants here illegally emerged after a group of conservative House Republicans met with Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, Wednesday evening. Cruz has been insisting that any border funding bill address DACA, which many Republicans have said was an incentive for more than 57,000 unaccompanied children from Central America and Mexico to trek to the U.S. border. Immigration advocates have demanded he expand DACA.
"It is a good bill for us to have this DACA fix, that's the President's own illegal creation where he defers asylum for kids that come into the country, that we can all vote for," said Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn. She was less certain the spending bill would pass.
Young immigrants must have lived in the U.S. continuously since June 15, 2007, to be eligible for DACA. Administration officials have said smugglers misled families to believe "permisos" to stay in the U.S. would be expiring at the end of June or July. Many families sent their children believing the "permiso" was an opportunity for their children to escape violence and poverty, officials said.
Children who come to the border without an adult and are not from Mexico or Canada are allowed to reunite with family or a guardian while they await immigration hearings. Understaffing and crowded court have led to backlogs that add up to years-long waits for the hearings.
About 550,000 young immigrants who entered or stayed in the U.S. illegally have been allowed to remain and work because of DACA. A Harvard study found that the program has successfully integrated many young people into the economy and their communities, but state laws regarding tuition have prevented many from pursuing higher education.