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The House just passed its first attempt to stop Obama on immigration

Speaker Boehner wants to cut down executive action on immigration until it's about that big.
Speaker Boehner wants to cut down executive action on immigration until it's about that big.
Mark Wilson/Getty
  1. The House of Representatives has passed a bill that would stop President Obama from letting millions of unauthorized immigrants apply for protection from deportation.
  2. The bill passed 216-197, with seven Republicans voting against it (and three Democrats voting in favor).
  3. The bill is almost certainly not going to become law. Democrats won't bring it up in the Senate before the end of this Congress, at the end of the month.
  4. Republicans may bring the bill up again next year, when they control both chambers of Congress. But the administration has already promised to veto it, and Republicans won't have large enough majorities to override the veto.
  5. The bill might also end the US' current policy toward Cuban immigration, which allows for essentially unlimited migration to the US.

What would the bill actually do?

The bill the House just passed would ban the Department of Homeland Security from giving relief from deportation, or work permits, to any "category" of immigrants who are here unlawfully, or who come unlawfully. The government could still issue protections from deportation — but they would have to be on a case-by-case basis.

Republicans believe that this would prevent President Obama from implementing the executive actions he announced last month, which would allow about three and a half million unauthorized immigrants to apply for protection from deportation and work permits. But here's the problem for Republicans: the Obama administration maintains that its new program is "case-by-case," not categorical. So according to the administration, even if the bill somehow passed into law — which it's extremely unlikely to do — it wouldn't actually ban anything the president is actually doing.

Are Republicans trying to take away protections from unauthorized immigrants who've already gotten them?

daca clinic

People attend an orientation class in filing up their application for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program

There are over 600,000 unauthorized immigrants who've already gotten temporary protection from deportation and work permits thanks to the Obama administration. They applied under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which was introduced in 2012.

The bill the House just passed isn't retroactive — it would only apply to immigrants who sought protection from deportation after November 20. So it wouldn't take protection away from the immigrants who've already been protected by DACA (or immigrants whose DACA applications have been submitted, but not approved yet).

But DACA only lasts for two years, and the bill would prohibit immigrants from getting their DACA protections renewed. So as DACA grants run out over the next two years, those immigrants would, one by one, become vulnerable to deportation again.

Would the bill just apply to President Obama's policies?

The bill is pretty broad, and it could definitely apply to some longer-standing policies as well. Most notably, it's possible that banning "categorical" relief would end the "wet foot, dry foot" policy that allows Cuban defectors to stay in the US. House Judiciary Committee chairman Bob Goodlatte said that the bill wouldn't affect Cubans, because there's an existing law that allows all Cubans to get relief in the US — but the text of the bill itself doesn't actually carve out an exception for existing law.

Republicans have historically been staunch defenders of "wet foot, dry foot," so it's notable that they weren't more explicit in carving out an exception.

Did any Republicans think this was a bad idea?

Seven Republicans voted against the bill. Five of them are pro-immigration or moderate Republicans, who've voted against previous attempts to expand deportation. The other two (Rep. Louie Gohmert and Rep. Marlin Stutzman) are hard-liners, who voted against the bill because it didn't go far enough. Three other House conservatives (including leading immigration hawk Steve King) voted "present," for the same reason.

What more can Republicans do to try to stop the president's immigration actions?

Republicans are still figuring out whether they want to try to defund the Department of Homeland Security unless the president ends the new relief program. Speaker of the House John Boehner has floated the idea of passing a bill now that would only fund DHS for a few months (while the rest of the government was funded through fall 2015), so that Congress could decide what to do in the spring. But some conservatives want to pass a bill that would restrict DHS from getting any money now, unless the president agreed to end the program.

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