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House votes to block Obama’s immigration action

Photo Eric Gay, AP

Erin Kelly, USA TODAY

WASHINGTON — The House voted Wednesday to block funding for President Obama’s executive order to protect about 4 million undocumented immigrants from being deported and allow them to work legally in the USA.

The action puts the House on a collision course with Senate Democrats and the White House and could lead to a partial shutdown of the Department of Homeland Security if a compromise cannot be reached by the end of next month.

House members voted 236-191 to pass a $40 billion funding bill for the Department of Homeland Security after first approving five controversial immigration amendments. One would derail Obama’s latest immigration action while another would cut off funding for his 2012 program that gave protection from deportation and work permits to immigrants brought to the U.S. illegally as children.

About 600,000 young immigrants have been accepted into the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, but their applications for a two-year renewal would be in jeopardy under the House-approved bill. They are generally seen as the most sympathetic group of undocumented immigrants because they came to the U.S. through no fault of their own and have grown up thinking of the United States as home.

House members narrowly approved the amendment to end the DACA program by a vote of 218-209. It was the closest vote on any of the amendments and reflects why it may be especially difficult to get the bill past Democrats and moderate Republicans in the Senate.

The House bill is unlikely to attract the 60 votes it needs in the Senate to overcome a filibuster by Democrats. Even if it is approved by the Senate, Obama has vowed to veto any bill that derails his immigration action.

House leaders passed their bill early in the year in part to allow time for a compromise to be worked out before funding expires Feb. 27 for the Department of Homeland Security. The department, which includes Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the Coast Guard, the Secret Service, the Transportation Security Administration and the Federal Emergency Management Agency, would be forced to shut down at least part of its operations if a deal cannot be reached before the end of next month.

Democrats criticized Republicans for putting DHS funding in jeopardy in the wake of last week’s terrorist attacks in Paris.

“They are holding our security hostage to the politics of immigration,” said Rep. Steve Israel, D-N.Y. “How will you explain your vote if a disaster occurs?”

But Republicans said it was important to take a stand against what they see as Obama’s unconstitutional power grab.

“If President Obama’s unilateral immigration actions are not stopped, future presidents will continue to expand the power of the executive branch and encroach upon individual liberty,” said Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., chairman of the House Judiciary Committee.

Obama angered congressional Republicans in November when he announced he would protect from deportation undocumented immigrants who arrived in the USA by Jan. 1, 2010, and are the parents of U.S. citizens. He would allow many of them to apply for work permits. The president also expanded the DACA program.

Obama’s order would affect 3.5 million to 4.1 million of the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the USA, according to estimates by the Pew Research Center.

Supporters and opponents of Obama’s immigration action said they doubt the House action will end up stopping Obama’s immigration orders.

“What’s predictable is that House Republican leaders are going to be unsuccessful at stopping the executive action but very successful at further alienating Latino, Asian-American and immigrant voters,” said Frank Sharry, executive director of America’s Voice, an immigrant rights group.

Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies and an opponent of the president’s immigration action, said congressional Republicans lost their leverage when they approved fiscal 2015 funding for most of the government late last year instead of threatening a total government shutdown over the immigration dispute. Republican leaders decided in December to approve funding for all government agencies except DHS through September 2015.

“They essentially surrendered when they did that,” Krikorian said.”What they’re doing now is just for show.”

Source:The USA Today

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