House Republicans have passed a bill to suspend Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), the program established by the Obama administration in 2012 that protects from deportation certain undocumented individuals who came to the United States as children and allows individuals to obtain employment authorization documents if certain conditions are met. House Republicans also passed a bill that would provide funding to address the immigration situation at the United States-Mexico border.
House Republicans contend DACA is among the causes, if not the chief cause, of the crisis at the border, arguing DACA encourages families to send their children to the United States expecting that they will not be deported and will have an opportunity to remain in the U.S. The bill would defund DACA and discontinue the issuance of work permits to such workers, eliminating the attraction for children from countries such as El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala. House Democrats opposed the bill, arguing the approximately 600,000 individuals with DACA status and employment authorization documents would be returned to the stigmatized status of undocumented immigrants. As the crisis on the border has received more attention, the intent and impact of DACA have become more controversial, with Republicans seeking to eliminate the program and Democrats seeking to protect it.
The chamber also passed legislation providing funding to address the growing border crisis. The measure would appropriate just under $700 million, a dramatically lower figure than that the White House requested, which had sought approximately $3.7 billion to be directed to Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Customs and Border Protection, Department of Justice, the State Department and the Department of Health and Human Services. House Democrats uniformly opposed their Republican counterparts’ funding bill, arguing that it is insufficient to address the serious humanitarian issues triggered by the border situation.
Although the twin bills passed before Congress took its August recess have little chance of passing the Democratic-led Senate, they represent a clear message from House Republicans as they left Washington for home to visit with constituents and in advance of what many observers expect will be executive action on immigration before the 2014 midterm elections. The House Republicans’ emphasis remains on border security and they clearly have no interest in adopting the comprehensive immigration reform bill passed earlier in the year by the Senate and favored by their House Democratic colleagues and President Obama.
Although there may not be immigration legislation that passes both chambers in 2014, it appears clear that immigration issues will likely not fade from the national view, and will continue to occupy a prominent position among pro- and anti-immigration reform groups, not to mention in news cycles, in the lead-up to midterm elections.