WASHINGTON, D.C. (AP) - House Republicans will try to pass a sweeping measure to build a border wall as well as impose new asylum restrictions. This is a response to the hardline policies of President Joe Biden at a time when migrants are accumulating along the border due to the revocation of pandemic regulations.
Bill has almost no chance to become law. Democrats who hold a slim majority in the Senate have condemned the aggressive measures of the bill, calling them 'cruel,' 'antiimmigrant,' and Biden himself has promised to veto the legislation.
The House GOP deliberately scheduled the vote on the day of the expiration date for Title 42. This was a rule that allowed border officials to return migrants quickly who had crossed the border without permission. Biden conceded that there will be chaos at the U.S. Mexico border for a time as migrants decide whether or not to cross, and U.S. officials implement a new policy that aims to curb illegal immigration by offering more legal paths.
Republicans have tried to blame Biden for an increase in illegal immigration that occurred during his tenure. By passing the bill, House GOP legislators can claim they have done their part in delivering on a campaign pledge to secure the border.
House Speaker Kevin McCarthy said to reporters on Wednesday that the Republicans had solutions. McCarthy expressed confidence in the GOP's ability to pass the bill through the House, which is held by a narrow majority.
McCarthy, R.-Calif. spoke for about 20 minutes on the House floor late Wednesday -- a vantage point he only uses occasionally -- to press his point.
The speaker, who was accompanied by a few GOP legislators including Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, said: 'This is the record of President Biden on the border. Record crossings, record recklessness, record chaos.'
It took Republicans months to bring the bill before the House, despite some public disputes between GOP legislators over the legislation.
The 213-page legislation represents a compromise reached in the Republican Conference between mainstream legislators who wanted to concentrate on enhancing border enforcement and conservative hardliners who want to see radical changes to U.S. immigration and asylum law.
The package would return many of the policies that were pursued by the former president Donald Trump, including building walls along border. The package would also restrict asylum, requiring migrants pay a $50 charge, cross legally and show, in their initial interviews, that they are fleeing persecution based on race, religion or political reasons.
The bill would scrap a program which allowed U.S. officials quickly to reject or accept some migrants from Venezuela and Haiti. This program is the cornerstone of Biden’s immigration efforts. It allows migrants from these countries to come to America for two years and work legally.
Even as the bill was nearing its final form on Wednesday, it needed to be modified to satisfy concerns raised by the House Freedom Caucus. The House Freedom Caucus and other lawmakers were concerned about the consequences of giving the Department of Homeland Security power to designate cartels foreign terrorist organizations. They also questioned whether agricultural businesses could be affected by a provision that requires them to verify immigration status of their employees.
McCarthy met with a group far-right legislators in the office Tom Emmer (the Republican whip) on Wednesday afternoon, to convince them to support the bill.
'Members were able to look through the documents, make notes, ask questions and have discussions,' said Rep. Byron Donalds of Florida, a Republican who attended the meeting.
The House GOP leadership changed the legislation to accommodate the objections. The amendment also angered Rep. Tony Gonzales, a key Republican lawmaker.
The Texas Republican said to reporters that he had voted against an amendment to the bill because it "watered down" the provision potentially treating cartels as terrorist groups. He added, however, that he would vote in favor of the final legislation.
Gonzales has worked with several senators including Sens. Kyrsten Sinema is an Arizona independent and Thom Tillis is a North Carolina Republican. They are working on a proposal to combine aggressive border enforcement along with the expansion of legal immigration via work visas.
Dick Durbin is the second-ranked Democrat in the Senate. The second-ranking Democrat in the Senate, Sen. Dick Durbin, announced Wednesday that he intends to introduce legislation which would help border officials and accelerate the asylum application process.
Durbin added that the American people were 'tired' of the partisan bickering.
Congress hasn't passed comprehensive immigration reform for decades. But Gonzales, who represents an area bordering the United States, hopes that House Bill 109 could create some momentum even if Biden is criticized.
He said, 'Until President Obama signs the bill into law, this is all theater.' Many people are very good at playing political theater. In my district we are dealing with a crisis.
This report was contributed by Lisa Mascaro, a Congressional Correspondent for AP.