US House blocks Obama immigration plan

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WASHINGTON D.C.: The US House on Wednesday defied President Barack Obama by adopting Republican measures blocking his controversial immigration reform efforts, but the bill is unlikely to survive in its current form.

Lawmakers voted 236 to 191 to fund the Department of Homeland Security through September 30, the end of fiscal year 2015.

But the bill included several amendments torpedoing the plan Obama unveiled last November, which authorized the administration to provide work permits for millions of undocumented workers.

One amendment would also freeze the program Obama launched in 2012 that shields certain undocumented minors from deportation. Another prioritizes expulsions among certain categories of undocumented criminal offenders.


“We do not take this action lightly, but simply there is no alternative,” House Speaker John Boehner said.

“This executive overreach is an affront to the rule of law and to the constitution itself,” he added.

Some 11.3 million people were living illegally in the United States as of March 2013, the Pew Research Center estimated.

The last comprehensive immigration reform by US lawmakers dates back to 1986.

Since then, all attempts at major revisions have failed, most recently in 2013 amid conservative opposition.

Democratic lawmakers, labor unions and rights groups have complained bitterly about the obstruction, but they let loose Wednesday over what they believe is a misguided Republican focus on deportations.

“It makes no sense to divert Homeland Security measures to hunt down and deport such individuals,” the large Service Employees International Union argued.

The White House has promised a presidential veto of the amended legislation, which has virtually no chance of passing the Senate where Democrats have a blocking minority.

“Republicans have only been in control for a week and already they are picking an unnecessary political fight that risks shutting down the Department of Homeland Security and endangering our security,” said Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid.

“Republicans should stop playing games and pass a clean bill to fund [DHS],” he added.

The House action sets up a showdown between newly empowered congressional Republicans and Obama.

Congress has until February 27 to formalize funding for DHS, which oversees border security, immigration and customs, and the Secret Service tasked with protecting the president.

Democrats used the example of last week’s deadly Paris attacks to denounce the Republican tactics.

“Homeland security is the last thing in this body that should be subject to a political compromise. Not after the attacks on France, not after 9/11 when we pledged to keep the American people safe,” Democrat Steve Israel told the House.

AFP

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