WASHINGTON – With little notice, GOP House leaders are poised to make an apparently unforced major policy concession on illegal immigration, reversing a position they had taken just last summer.
Led by Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., House conservatives convinced GOP leaders to support a tough border bill on Aug. 1 that included an Obama administration request for funding to process a surge of unaccompanied illegal-immigrant children crossing the border in unprecedented numbers.
However, in return for the funding, the bill specifically required the administration to change its policy of allowing the illegal minors to stay in the country. Many believe the policy served as a magnet, enticing tens of thousands of children to make the dangerous journey from as far away as Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador.
The policy change is no longer required in a $1 trillion omnibus spending bill drafted by House and Senate Appropriations committees, according to details released by the New York Times.
However, the Times reports $948 million of funding to process the children is included in the draft bill.
“What it says is, all the work we did last summer to obtain a compromise was an illusion. An illusion to placate conservatives,” Bachmann told WND.
She said the willingness to permit the funding to process unaccompanied minors while not requiring a policy change showed House GOP leaders were not really serious about the larger issue of opposing President Obama’s move to grant amnesty to up to 5 million illegal immigrants.
“This lack of a fight indicates to me the House leadership is unwilling to fight on amnesty in any possible way,” the congresswoman told WND.
“And that should make people across the country who feel very strongly about this issue irate.”
The government estimates 56,000 unaccompanied minors entered the country across the southern border this year before October, while only 1,900 were sent home to Central American countries.
When the GOP takes control of the Senate in January, the Republican-dominated Congress could easily pass the legislation that would require the administration to change its policy on admitting virtually all unaccompanied illegal-immigrant children. However, lawmakers will not get a chance to do so if the omnibus spending bill is passed in December, before the new Congress convenes.
The spending bill also does nothing to prevent implementation of Obama’s intention to grant work permits, Social Security numbers and federal benefits to the 5 million illegal immigrants awaiting amnesty.
The Times does report the nearly $1 trillion spending bill would fund most government operations while keeping the Department of Homeland Security running only though February in what the paper calls an effort to keep pressure on the president over his immigration plan.
However, Bachmann sees that gesture as more symbolic than serious.
“I would hope leadership would recognize the fallacy of what they’re doing. But the fact that they are not listening in any form to what the people just said at the ballot box in November,” said the congresswoman, her voice trailing off in incredulity.
Conservatives are now trying to figure out how to effectively oppose the spending plan. But they have said repeatedly it is imperative the public voice the opposition to amnesty reflected in polls.
In August, Bachmann told WND the House passage of a tough border bill that included the streamlining of the processing of unaccompanied illegal immigrants was a “legislative miracle.”
She had expected, had the Senate passed the bill, it would have dramatically slowed the flow of underage illegal immigrants crossing the border, because it would have significantly sped up the processing of the children.
Bachmann led the effort by House conservatives – including Reps. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas; Steve King, R-Iowa; and Mo Brooks, R-Ala. – to convince House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, to drop his own, weaker version of a border bill. The congresswoman then led the successful effort by conservatives to get GOP leadership to support their tougher border bill.
Bachmann told WND she was astounded she could go from a “hell no” to a “yes” on a border bill overnight and considered it one of the high points of her eight-year career in Congress.
She credited the efforts of grassroots voters who “melted the phone lines” on Capitol Hill, demanding a stronger bill that would do more to secure the border and discourage illegal immigrants by reducing the prospects for amnesty and asylum.
But now she is dismayed all of that work may be for naught.
Bachmann did not run for re-election and will retire from Congress at the end of the year.
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