WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Republican majority in the U.S. House of Representatives succeeded Sept.14 in passing a bill that calls for the construction of a 1,125-kilometer barrier along the border with Mexico.
The measure, approved with a vote of 283-138, will now be sent to the U.S. Senate, where many Republicans already helped pass a bill in May for comprehensive immigration reform including a guest-worker program and paths toward legalization for undocumented migrants.
Thursday’s debate and vote in the House was a further indication of the divisions between Democrats and Republicans over how to halt the flow of undocumented foreigners into the United States.
Prior to the final vote, House Democrats – hoping to buy time and more support for comprehensive immigration reform – tried to stop the measure with a motion that would have sent it back to the Homeland Security Committee.
But that motion was rejected by a vote of 224-193, as Republicans formed a united front in favor of the hard-line bill introduced less than 24 hours earlier by New York Representative Peter King.
The punitive legislation incorporates most of the elements of an enforcement-only bill sponsored by Wisconsin Rep. James Sensenbrenner that was approved by the House last December by a vote of 260-159.
That legislation, which also called for construction of hundreds of miles of additional barriers along the border and made no provision for legalization, sparked protests among the immigrant community.
House Republicans, instead of sitting down with senators in a conference committee to reconcile their bill with the one passed by the upper chamber in May, decided to hold public hearings around the country – many of them in border cities –that appeared to be aimed at justifying their opposition to the immigrant-friendly measures approved by the Senate.