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GOP-backed 'Secure the Border' bill passes House ahead of Title 42 expiration

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., called the Secure the Border Act -- passed Thursday -- the "strongest border security bill this country has ever seen." Democrats called it "cruel" and "unworkable." Photo by Bonnie Cash/UPI
1 of 4 | House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., called the Secure the Border Act -- passed Thursday -- the "strongest border security bill this country has ever seen." Democrats called it "cruel" and "unworkable." Photo by Bonnie Cash/UPI | License Photo

May 11 (UPI) -- House Republicans on Thursday passed the Secure the Border Act ahead of Title 42 immigration restrictions expiring at midnight.

It's highly unlikely the bill will advance in the Senate, which is controlled by Democrats.

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The bill greatly limits asylum eligibility and expands the offenses that disqualify a person from being eligible for entry. It also directs the Department of Homeland Security to resume construction on former President Donald Trump's border wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.

The DHS may also delay entry into the United States as a means to control the flow of immigrants from the border, under provisions of the bill.

The bill, introduced by Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Fla., passed the House with a 219-213 vote, with two Republicans breaking from party lines to vote against it, NBC News reports.

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Following the vote, House Republicans, led by House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., held a press conference to laud the proposal. McCarthy called it the "strongest border security bill this country has ever seen."

"This bill secures the border from President Biden's record crossings, record carelessness and record chaos," he said. "By passing H.R.2, House Republicans have shown we're focused on addressing our nation's biggest challenges. By contrast, the White House has two years to plan for the end of Title 42."

A coalition of Democrats were critical of the Republican-proposed act ahead of its House floor vote on Thursday, calling it "cruel" and "unworkable."

The Congressional Hispanic Caucus hosted a press conference with leaders of the Democratic Party, Congressional Black Caucus, Congressional Progressive Caucus, and the New Democrat Coalition. Members of each organization sounded off on the policy.

"This bill is the product of extreme Republicans' cruel, unworkable and extreme immigration policy," said CHC Chair Nanette Diaz Barragán. "The Republican child deportation act jails children and families. The bill effectively separates innocent children from their families and leaves them vulnerable to bad actors and to smugglers."

Along with the construction of the wall at the southern border between the United States and Mexico and limiting asylum eligibility, the bill allows immigration officers to reject unaccompanied children and withdraw admission applications for children "even if the child is unable to make an independent decision to withdraw the application."

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House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., supported the bill in a House floor speech on Wednesday. He suggested that ranchers have had their property "broken into" by immigrants crossing the border illegally and blamed immigration for the fentanyl crisis. He reiterated this claim on Thursday, stating that Democrats should address the families who have lost children to fentanyl.

The United States Sentencing Commission found that about 86% of people convicted for smuggling fentanyl into the United States in 2021 were U.S. citizens.

Progressive Caucus Chair Pramila Jayapal said comprehensive bills have been proposed to modernize the U.S. immigration policy but Republicans have not been in agreement to advance them. Rep. Darren Soto, D-Fla., then listed measures that he said have been proven to work, such as advanced sensors that can spot people crossing the border, adding border security officers, and an increase in Department and Homeland Security staffers to process immigrants.

Soto said the proposed GOP policy will hurt the agriculture industry and create a labor shortage crisis.

"This won't do a lot for immigration but it will do a lot to increase inflation," Soto said of the Secure the Border Act.

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