House Republicans on Thursday cancelled a planned vote on their emergency funding bill to address the influx of unaccompanied minors crossing the southern border after it became clear that they did not have enough support from members of their own party to approve the measure.
The bill sought to provide the Obama administration with $659 million in emergency funding to hire 40 temporary immigration judges, deploy National Guard troops to the southern border and provide additional resources to border agents. It also sought to make changes to a 2008 anti-trafficking law to expedite the removal of unaccompanied minors from Central America to their home countries.
House Republicans are scheduled to meet Friday morning to regroup and decide how to move forward on their emergency funding bill, extending the congressional summer session for one more day. But if no agreement is reached, House members will go home for the five-week August recess without addressing the flood of unaccompanied minors crossing the southern border, many of them seeking refuge from violence and poverty in Central America.
In a joint statement, Speaker John A. Boehner and other House Republican leaders said they would continue to work on finding solutions to the border crisis and called on Obama to act.
This situation shows the intense concern within our conference and among the American people about the need to ensure the security of our borders and the presidents refusal to faithfully execute our laws, the House Republican leaders stated. There are numerous steps the president can and should be taking right now, without the need for congressional action, to secure our borders and ensure these children are returned swiftly and safely to their countries.
The announcement to cancel the vote came after a contentious debate that had Republicans blaming President Barack Obama for the influx of unaccompanied minors. They said the presidents Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program that provides deportation reprieve and work permits to undocumented youth who entered the country before June 15, 2012, sent an unmistakable signal that if a child manages to get to the United States, that child will get to stay.
That signal, I think, has been picked up by criminals and turned into a message directed at naïve and vulnerable people, saying if you give us thousands of dollars, we will take you on this journey, get you to the United States and then youre going to be able to stay, Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.) said on the House floor.
Meanwhile, Democrats accused House Republicans of trying to weaken the due process protections of children by proposing changes to the 2008 law. Under the House Republicans emergency funding bill, children who come from Central America would be put on the same expedited process of removal as children from Mexico or Canada.
Democrats also criticized House Republicans for moving the emergency funding bill so quickly and without setting aside enough time for both sides to debate. They noted that a partisan task force made up of Republicans drafted the language of the bill and that Democrats didnt have a chance to provide input.
This bill has had no hearings, no committee consideration, House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer said on the House floor. Yes, there was a partisan task force, but this has had no consideration in this legislative process.
Rep. Harold Rogers (R-Ky.) responded to the criticism by Hoyer saying, This bill has been available to you since Tuesday.
However, Rogers didnt address a bill Republicans proposed at the last minute that would prohibit the federal government from expanding the number of undocumented immigrants eligible for the current DACA program. Republicans moved Wednesday night to schedule the vote on that bill as a way to encourage other Republicans to vote on the emergency funding package.
On Thursday, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest condemned House Republicans for introducing the bill to block the expansion of the DACA program.
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, Earnest said in a statement.