WASHINGTON — Republicans running the U.S. House started this session of Congress vowing to consider immigration policy changes that would appeal to Hispanic voters, the nation’s fastest growing voter bloc.
They’re delivering just the opposite.
To win support for border legislation, House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and his leadership team had to add money on Friday for National Guard troops along the Texas-Mexico line. They also included a measure to stop protecting some migrant children from deportation, undermining an Obama administration policy that most Hispanic voters support.
“It’s something that I think can be perceived pretty negatively by many in our country,” Rep. Mario Diaz- Balart, a Florida Republican, said in an interview about the measure that would end the deportation protections for children.
The House on Friday voted 223-189 mostly along party lines to spend $694 million — less than one-fifth of the money President Barack Obama said was needed – to handle the surge of children arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border from Central America. The second measure also passed, 216-192.
Though House Republicans delayed leaving Washington for their August break to pass the measures, there’s no chance of either becoming law any time soon. U.S. lawmakers aren’t scheduled to return to the Capitol until Sept. 8, when they’ll meet for about two weeks and leave again until after the November election.
The Senate didn’t advance its border plan on Thursday after every Republican and two Democrats voted against it.
“Our party has to have a real awakening that we have to be for some things,” Rep. Adam Kinzinger, an Illinois Republican, said in an interview.
About 57,000 unaccompanied children were apprehended at the border from Oct. 1, 2013, through June 15, double the total from the same time a year earlier. Most are from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras.
Obama on Friday accused House Republicans of focusing on immigration legislation that is “extreme and unworkable” just to send a message and “check a box” before leaving for their break. Obama asked Congress on July 8 to approve $3.7 billion to handle the influx of unaccompanied children.
“They’re not even trying to solve the problem,” said Obama, who won more than 70 percent of the Hispanic vote in his 2012 re-election. A Latino Decisions poll showed that 58 percent of Latino voters said the “deferred action” policy made them more enthusiastic to support the president
Democratic lawmakers said the lack of progress on immigration opens the door for Obama to take executive action ahead of the midterm elections.
Obama is considering using his authority to allow millions of undocumented immigrants to obtain work permits and stay in the U.S. legally.