House Republicans passed legislation late Friday to address the crisis on the Texas-Mexico border by sending migrant youths back home without hearings, after winning over conservatives with tough new provisions that could lead to deporting more than half a million immigrants granted temporary work permits by the Obama administration.
President Barack Obama condemned the Republican action and said he'd act unilaterally, as best he could.
A day after GOP leaders pulled the border bill from the floor in a chaotic retreat, tea party lawmakers were enthusiastically on board with the new $694 million version and a companion measure that would shut off a program created by Obama granting work permits to immigrants brought here illegally as kids.
The second bill also seemed designed to prevent the more than 700,000 people who've already received work permits under the program from renewing them, ultimately making them subject to deportation.
The spending bill passed 223-189 late Friday, with only four Republicans voting "no" and one Democrat voting "yes." A vote on the second measure was expected later in the night.
"It's dealing with the issue that the American people care about more than any other, and that is stopping the invasion of illegal foreign nationals into our country," said Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn. "And we got to yes."
The revised border security bill would provide $35 million for the National Guard and clarify a provision on quickly returning unaccompanied minors from Central America to their home countries. Obama had requested $3.7 billion to handle the tens of thousands flooding into the United States.
But with the Senate already out of session for the summer, the bill stands no chance of becoming law.
Democrats called the vote a sham proceeding, and President Barack Obama says he'll have to act on his own.
“The legislation put forward tonight by House Republicans does not responsibly address the problem of unaccompanied children apprehended at the border, and could result in the deportation of hundreds of thousands of DREAMers, young people who were brought to this country as children and are Americans in every way but on paper,” the White House said in a statement.
The gridlock on the border crisis reflected the past 18 months of a divided, dysfunctional Congress that has little legislation to show for its days in Washington but plenty of abysmal public approval numbers.
The Senate passed a comprehensive immigration bill more than a year ago that would create a pathway for citizenship for the 11.5 million immigrants living here illegally, tighten border security and establish new visa and enforcement programs. The measure has languished in the House despite calls from national Republicans, business groups, religious organizations and labor for lawmakers to act.
Al Jazeera and the Associated Press