WASHINGTON -- The White House went after House Republicans on Thursday for their "extraordinary" decision to vote -- again -- on ending a policy that has allowed hundreds of thousands of young undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. years ago as children to stay in the country.
The House plans to vote on the measure to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy, or DACA, later in the day as a last-minute addition to the schedule, reportedly because Republican leadership could not cobble together the 218 votes needed to pass a bill to address the border crisis.
The House GOP's $659 million supplemental funding bill, which would address the unaccompanied minors who have crossed the border illegally, already received a veto threat from the White House.
But the decision to couple it with a vote to dismantle one of President Barack Obama's signature immigration policies inspired an even stronger condemnation.
"It is extraordinary that the House of Representatives, after failing for more than a year to reform our broken immigration reform 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," White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said in a statement.
"By failing to act on an immigration reform bill that requires that people who are here illegally pay taxes, undergo background checks and get on the right side of the law, the House is instead driving an approach that is about rounding up and deporting 11 million people, separating families, and undermining DHS’ ability to secure the border," he said.
The 2012 DACA policy allows young undocumented immigrants, often called Dreamers, to stay and work legally for two years or more if they meet a number of requirements, including entering the U.S. before the age of 16 before June 15, 2007, and residing in the country continuously since then. None of the more than 57,500 unaccompanied minors who have crossed the border illegally since October are eligible.
More than 550,000 undocumented young people have already been granted DACA, but many others who may be eligible have either not applied or not yet received the relief. Pew Hispanic Center estimated in August 2012, just before the program began accepting applications, that up to 1.7 million undocumented young people could potentially qualify, either at that time or in the future.
But many Republicans say DACA caused the current border crisis by giving the impression that children and teenagers who enter the U.S. illegally can stay. While Obama administration officials have acknowledged that a misconception exists -- perpetuated by smugglers -- that young people can remain in the country, they argue the real problems are backlogged immigration courts and other policies that prevent swift deportations.
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) led the charge in the Senate to attach a bill that ends DACA and other administration relief to any funding for the border crisis. Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) introduced a companion bill in the House, which will receive a vote on Thursday and is likely to pass. Such a move could get Republican members on board for the border funding measure, but would almost certainly be shot down by the Senate.