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Immigration Reform News and Impact on US Homeland Security August 5, 2014

Right Side News reports from the Federation for American Immigration Reform on:

  • House Passes Border Funding Bill, Prohibits DACA Expansion
  • Obama Plans to "Act Alone" This Summer
  • Senate Democrats Adjourn for Recess after Failing to Pass Their $2.7 Billion Border Bill

House Passes Border Funding Bill, Prohibits DACA Expansion

After a flurry of activity on Capitol Hill last week that delayed the August recess, the House of Representatives finally passed a package of bills late Friday night to address the border crisis. In separate votes, the House approved a $694 million emergency-funding bill to deal with the surge of unaccompanied alien minors crossing the border into Texas. Shortly thereafter, the House also passed a bill that prevents President Obama from expanding his Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) amnesty program that is the primary cause of the surge. Both bills passed a day after House GOP leadership was forced to pull weaker measures from the floor because they did not have sufficient votes to pass.

Originally, House GOP Leadership planned on passing its border bill on Thursday afternoon, then leave town for the August recess. That version of H.R. 5230 included $659 million in additional funding to address the crisis, with most of it ($405 million) going to U.S. Customs and Border Protection ($71 million) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement ($334 million). It also included policy changes, authored by Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) and Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-TX), regarding the removal of unaccompanied minors under the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2008 (TVPRA) (P. Law 110-457). The Cornyn-Cuellar changes to the TVPRA would have made it more difficult to removal alien minors. (See FAIR Legislative Update, July 29, 2014)

In an embarrassing defeat to new Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) and Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA), House Leadership pulled the bill from the floor during debate because it lacked the votes to pass. (See The Hill, July 31, 2014) Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), who downplayed the move, said the inability to win conservative support for the bill "shows the intense concern within our conference" and promised that House GOP "will continue to work on solution to the border crisis." (Boehner Press Release, July 31, 2014) Then, House Leadership delayed the start of the August recess to provide Members time to develop an alternative plan.

Finally, after more than 24 hours of negotiating within its own conference, House Leadership reached an agreement on a stronger package of bills endorsed by FAIR to address the border crisis. First, they removed the Cornyn-Cuellar language from H.R. 5230 and replaced it with language drafted by Reps. John Carter (R-TX), Robert Aderholt (R-AL), and Jack Kingston (R-GA). The Carter-Aderholt-Kingston language amends the TVPRA so all unaccompanied minors have the same removal process (regardless of country of original) without adding unnecessary layers of process. (See H.R. 5230) Next, the revised bill added $35 million to reimburse Texas for the cost of sending the National Guard to the border, bringing the bill's total to $694 million. (Id.) With these changes, H.R. 5230 passed 223-189, with one Democrat voting in favor and four Republicans opposed. (Roll Call #478) Then, House Leadership agreed to hold a vote on Rep. Marsha Blackburn's (R-TN) bill, H.R. 5272, which bars President Obama from expanding DACA or any other administrative amnesty. H.R. 5272, which is modeled after legislation introduced by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), passed 216-192, with four Democrats voting in favor and 11 Republicans opposed. (Roll Call #479)

House leaders applauded the passage of these bills and challenged Senate Democrats to return from recess to take up these measures. "The House has just passed a responsible bill to address the humanitarian crisis at our southern border," Boehner said about H.R. 5230. (Boehner Press Release, Aug. 1, 2014) "If President Obama needs these resources, he will urge Senate Democrats to put politics aside, come back to work, and approve our bill." (Id.) Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) praised the House for passing H.R. 5272 to "ensure President Obama cannot take sweeping unilateral actions to shield entire categories of deportable aliens from removal." (Goodlatte Press Release, Aug. 1, 2014)

Predictably, President Obama criticized the bills passed by House Republicans. "The legislation put forward tonight by House Republicans does not responsibility 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," claimed a White House press release. (White House Press Release, Aug. 1, 2014) "Republicans in Washington have repeatedly called the situation at our border a crisis; yet, tonight they are considering partisan legislation that will not address the problem and is sure to be rejected by the Senate." (Id.)

Obama Plans to "Act Alone" This Summer

In an impromptu press conference Friday, President Obama set the stage for dramatically expanding his administrative amnesty programs by the summer's end. Earlier this year, President Obama indicated that he would expand these programs by asking Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson to do a "review" of the Department's deportation practices in order to find a more "humane" way of handle the deportation of illegal aliens. (See FAIR Legislative Update, Mar. 19, 2014) Then, speaking to the White House press corps at the end of June, President Obama announced he plans to unilaterally implement immigration policy changes that Congress won't. (See FAIR Legislative Update, July 8, 2014)

In Friday's comments, the President called House Republicans' efforts to pass border supplemental appropriations legislation pointless, because he would veto the "unworkable" proposal even in the unlikely scenario it passed the Senate. (See Politico, Aug. 1, 2014; The Hill, Aug. 1, 2014) Characterizing the revised bill as "going nowhere," Obama blamed Congress for not providing him sufficient resources to address the border crisis and failing to pass the Senate's mass amnesty bill, S.744. (White House Press Conference transcript, Aug. 1, 2014) Attempting to justify administrative action on a Congressional failure to put a bill on his desk before leaving on recess, he declared, "I'm going to have to act alone." (Id.)

The President's statement confirmed statements from Administration officials that signaled unilateral action on immigration was coming. On Thursday, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said that "the President is considering measures that he could take on his own." (White House Press Briefing, July 31, 2014) And, at a House Judiciary hearing last Tuesday, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Director Leon Rodriguez testified that President Obama asked top Administration officials to "examine possibilities" for administrative action. (Bloomberg Government Transcript, July 29, 2014)

While these officials did not specify the proposals under consideration, White House aides held private meetings with Democratic lawmakers and open borders advocates discussing their options. (Washington Post, Aug. 2, 2014; The Hill, Aug. 2, 2014) They told amnesty advocates that in addition to evaluating an expansion of the refugee program (New York Times, July 24, 2014; see also FAIR Legislative Update, July 29, 2014), the Administration is considering granting amnesty to approximately five million illegal aliens, such as relatives of U.S. citizens or those who have resided illegally in the United States for a long time. (Washington Post, Aug. 2, 2014) The National Council of La Raza (NCLR) and other pro-amnesty advocates said that White House aides have told them to expect Obama to act at the end of the summer, prior to Congress' return from recess on September 8. (The Hill, Aug. 2, 2014)

Senate Democrats Adjourn for Recess after Failing to Pass Their $2.7 Billion Border Bill

Last Thursday evening, the Senate's supplemental funding bill to address the border crisis, S. 2648, died on a procedural vote, 50 to 44, (60 votes required to pass). (Roll Call, July 31, 2014; Roll Call #252; Politico, July 31, 2014) This bill would have granted the President $2.7 billion dollars to deal with the border crisis, with no policy changes. (See FAIR Legislative Update, July 29, 2014) Having failed to pass the bill, on Friday, the Senate promptly left for its August recess. (democrats.senate.gov)

Only one day earlier, the Senate Democrats narrowly voted to begin debate on the bill 63-to-44, with 60 votes needed to pass the cloture motion. (Politico, July 30, 2014; Roll Call #250) Eleven Republicans voted to proceed with debate, including Sens. Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), Saxby Chambliss (R-GA), Susan Collins (R-ME), Bob Corker (T-TN), John Cornyn (R-TX), Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Orrin Hatch (R-UT), Dean Heller (R-NV), Johnny Isakson (R-GA), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), and Marco Rubio (R-FL). (Id.) Two Democrats, Sens. Kay Hagan (D-NC) and Mary Landrieu (D-LA), voted against the motion. (Id.; brietbart.com, July 30, 2014)) Some Senators voting for the initial cloture vote expressed that they only gave the bill initial support in order to propose amendments to it, as they wanted the bill to make policy changes. (Politico, July 30, 2014)

However, once the Senate began debate on Thursday, Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) used a procedure called "filling the amendment tree" to prevent all amendments to the bill, and filed cloture motion to end the debate on the bill. (Daily Press, July 31, 2014) True immigration reformer Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) moved to table Reid's amendment, which would have allowed amendments on the bill such as Sen Ted Cruz's (R-TX) amendment to prevent the President from granting more unilateral deferred action to illegal aliens. (brietbart.com, July 31, 2014) However, 52 Democratic Senators, all of the Democrats present at the time except for Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV), who voted with the 42 Republicans who were present to allow amendments, rejected Sen. Sessions' motion, thus preventing any amendments to the bill. (Roll Call #251)

But before the Senate could proceed to the vote to end debate, Sen. Sessions, who is also the Ranking Member of the Budget Committee, raised a point of order that the bill violated the Budget Control Act. (brietbart.com, July 31, 2014) Senator Sessions' point of order was valid because discretionary spending such as this must be offset by reducing other spending or raising further revenue, which the bill did not do. (See Committee on the Budget, Republicans) Sixty Senators were therefore needed to waive this point of order for the bill to proceed. (Id.) Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) motioned to waive all points of order. (brietbart.com, July 31, 2014) However, only 50 senators voted to do so, ten short of the 60 needed for the bill to proceed. (Roll Call #252) Those voting against waiving the point of order included two Democrats, Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA) and Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV), plus 42 Republicans, all those present. (Id.) The following six Senators did not vote: Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Thad Cochran (R-MS), Kay Hagan (D-NC), Tom Harkin (D-IA), Pat Roberts (R-KS), and Brian Schatz (D-HI) (Id.)

As the Senate has now departed for recess without passing a bill on the President's supplemental appropriations request, there is virtually no chance that a bill will reach the President's desk with supplemental funding until recess is over in September. Most senators left town Friday while the House delayed its recess and worked into the night to pass a bill. (The Hill, Aug. 1, 2014)

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