Republicans Finally Pass a Border Bill. So What’s in It?

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Aug. 1 2014 9:52 PM

Republicans Finally Pass a Border Bill. So What’s in It?

One day of predictably bad press, several meetings, three amendments, and a few delays, and presto: The House Republicans managed to pass a version of the border supplemental. Only four of their hard-core flock broke with the majority; one Democrat, Texas' Henry Ceullar, broke with Democrats to support the bill. Republicans wanted to leave for their recesses crowing that they'd passed a bill and the Senate hadn't, which assumes that reporters are idiots, and didn't notice Democrats getting cloture for one version of their bill. It's important to the Republicans' fall campaign to insist that they can achieve things, and the Democrats can't, and they've got to hope that this narrative can be carried forward in sparse town halls, radio hits, and op-eds. 

Yes, it's all very inspiring. You almost feel gauche for asking what's in the bill. Starting with what was added today, the bill allows states to be reimbursed for their National Guards' work on the deportation beat, changes the 2008 human trafficking law to put Central American migrants back in the normal deportation pipeline, and adds "a new restriction that prevents the Secretary of Defense from allowing the placement of unauthorized aliens at military installations if doing so would displace members of the Armed Forced [sic]."

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What else?

- The bill requires the State Department to submit reports, every three months, on what Central American countries are doing to stop the migrant train. If they fall short, their foreign aid is cut off completely. Meanwhile, $197,000,000 of foreign aid designated for those countries is cut off an applied to the deportation.

- A companion bill, to be passed later tonight, would end the Deferred Action program begun in 2012; sharp-eyed immigration reporters point out that none of the 580,000 immigrants who took advantage of DACA and got work permits would be able to renew them.

Here's how the bills were summed up in WaPo's nut graf:

The bill would provide emergency funding to deal with the crisis and speed the deportations of most border-crossers. A second measure, scheduled for a vote later Friday, would rescind President Obama’s authority to decide whether to deport certain illegal immigrants in the United States.

In their own statements, Republicans are reminding everyone that they did something, memory-holing yesterday's call for the president to act to solve the crisis, and stressing that their own tough measure will send a message down South: Don't even try to come. I guess it's possible that Guatemalans were as captivated as we were by one house of our legislature in its struggle to concoct a "compromise" between two factions of the same part.

Just one year ago, Republicans were talking about passing their own version of the DREAM Act. Tonight, they put the party on record for the total cessation of Barack Obama's quasi-DREAM Act. The arc of history is long, but it bends toward Steve King.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

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