Barletta Calls Border, DACA Bills “Very Important Policy Changes”
- House Acts, Senate Goes Home: Stops Relocation of Unaccompanied Minors, Redirects Foreign Aid -
WASHINGTON – Congressman Lou Barletta, PA-11, today played a key role in the passage of two pieces of legislation intended to address the ongoing border crisis and block the continued use of President Obama’s policy against deporting certain illegal immigrants already present in the United States. Combined, the two bills seek to combat the existing problems caused by the arrival of tens of thousands of illegal immigrants, primarily from the Central American nations of El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, and prevent conditions from growing worse. Barletta was among a small group of lawmakers who met Thursday night in the U.S. Capitol to go over the legislation and strengthen its provisions.
“From the first day I came to Congress, I have been asking that we do something about illegal immigration,” Barletta said. “For a long time I got nowhere, but with the border crisis unfolding right before the eyes of the nation, more and more people now understand the scope of the problem. We have successfully moved the conversation away from providing amnesty for illegal immigrants, and towards why we must protect our borders, and strengthen and enforce our laws. Let’s remember that this current crisis is the president’s own creation and we are trying to fix it. To be clear, this does not solve every problem we have with illegal immigration and border security, but these bills specifically address the border crisis, and are very important policy changes.”
A supplemental appropriations bill addressing the border crisis (H.R. 5230) funds a multi-faceted response to the continuing influx of unaccompanied minors. The second bill (H.R. 5272) stops the expansion of President Obama’s policy of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), under which the administration has refused to deport illegal immigrants up to the age of 30, if they claim they have been present in the country since the age of 16, among other factors. Obama’s DACA policy is a key reason for the recent influx of illegal immigrants, who believe that if they arrive safely in the United States, they will be allowed to stay.
The legislation funds the efforts, in part, by redirecting foreign aid for El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras to be used instead in repatriation efforts. It also deploys the National Guard for border protection and reimburses states for their use of the Guard on the southern border. The legislation will also prevent people detained at the border from being relocated around the United States by holding them pending deportation proceedings at the border. The House passed its legislation while members of the Senate had already left town without approving any measures to deal with the situation.
“We are making some very important improvements in how we approach this current crisis and prevent similar situations in the future,” Barletta said. “We are paying for states to send the National Guard to the border to help. We are changing the law so that all illegal immigrants are treated the same no matter where they are from. We are taking foreign aid we were giving to countries that contributed to this problem, and using it to repatriate their citizens instead. And we are halting President Obama’s DACA program that actively encouraged the illegal immigrants in the first place. Importantly, we are also stopping the practice of sending unaccompanied minors to relocation centers around the country by keeping them at the border pending their deportation proceedings.”
H.R. 5230 passed the House of Representatives 223-to-189, while H.R. 5272 passed 216-to-192 (one voting present).
The supplemental appropriations bill provides wide-ranging changes to United States policies and laws to deal with the persisting flood of illegal immigrants at the southern border. The legislation:
- Provides funding for the deployment of National Guard troops at the border to better defend against illegal crossings.
- Funds the department of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which will run out of money in mid-August, and the Border Patrol, which will exhaust its funding by mid-September.
- Allows the Border Patrol to patrol federal lands.
- Changes the 2008 human trafficking law to treat unaccompanied minors the same as if they were from Mexico for the purpose of removal.
- Provides that unaccompanied minors who claim a credible fear of persecution or who are victims of human trafficking must appear before an immigration judge within 14 days, and are detained until their appearance.
- Appropriates funding for additional immigration judges to reduce years-long wait times for hearings.
- Funds part of the legislation by redirecting foreign aid to El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras for use in repatriation.
- Creates a “last-in, first-out” policy for prioritized removal of unaccompanied minors.
- Prohibits the housing of illegal immigrants on military bases if it causes the displacement of active duty armed forces personnel or interferes with military operations.
“This is a much more substantive response than the one requested by President Obama,” Barletta said. “His idea was to simply throw money at the problem without seriously changing our policies. Given his lack of interest in enforcing existing immigration laws, I was not willing to write the president a blank check.”
The second bill prevents the expansion of DACA by prohibiting the federal government from issuing further guidance, memoranda, or regulations related to deferred deportations for people who are illegally present in the United States. It also prevents the future granting of deferred action or the issuance of work permits for illegal immigrants unless otherwise expressly provided by law.
“There is no question that President Obama’s DACA policy has served as the ‘Welcome Mat’ put out to people from every other country in the world,” Barletta said. “DACA told everyone that if you come to America illegally, you can stay. Today we are saying, ‘not anymore.’ This stops DACA in its tracks.”
The passage of the two pieces of legislation is even more important in the wake of the Senate’s inaction Thursday evening before its members left Washington. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid failed to find the 60 votes necessary to proceed with President Obama’s border proposal, which nevertheless would have done nothing to address the problem or prevent it from growing. The measure failed on a 50-to-44 vote.
“The House has recognized that there is a serious problem with our immigration policy, and now is the time for the Senate to step up to the plate as well,” Barletta said. “The Senate didn’t even pass President Obama’s half-hearted attempt at just throwing money at the problem without changing any of our national policies, and then they promptly left town. The House continued to do its job.”