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US House votes to block funding for president's immigration action

[JURIST] The US House of Representatives [official website] on Wednesday passed a $40 billion funding bill [HR 240, PDF] for the Department of Homeland Security on a 236-191 vote, which included amendments [text] to repeal two key facets to President Barack Obama's immigration action. The first amendment, passed on a 237-190 vote, is to block a 2014 executive order [materials] preventing the deportation of around 4 million undocumented migrants working in the US. The second, passed 218-209, is to stop funding to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) [materials] program permitting children brought to the US as undocumented migrants to stay and work. House Republicans argue the amendments will block Obama's expansion of executive power, while Democrats see the measure as holding security hostage for immigration interests, as a partial shutdown of the Department of Homeland Security will occur if a compromise cannot be found by February 27. The bill will go to the Senate next, where the 54 Republican Senators will likely be unable to prevent a Democratic filibuster. If the bill were to make it to the president's desk, Obama has voiced intention to exercise his power to veto.

With the recent DACA program and presidential executive order [JURIST op-ed], US immigration law [JURIST backgrounder] continues to be a controversial and heavily politicized area of law at both the state and federal level. In December a coalition of 17 states filed suit against Obama, challenging his executive action on immigration. Later that month, a judge for the US District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania declared [JURIST report] the executive order unconstitutional as a violation of the separation of powers. In November a judge for the US District Court for the District of Arizona struck down [JURIST report] an Arizona law that made smuggling immigrants a state crime because it conflicts with federal laws governing immigration. In August 2013 the Obama administration released [JURIST report] a policy directive known as the "Family Interest Directive" emphasizing that Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents should apply "prosecutorial discretion" towards undocumented immigrant parents of minors to limit detaining parents and to safeguard their parental rights. In June 2013 the US Senate approved [JURST report] a bill which would create new pathways to US citizenship for the more than 11 million undocumented immigrants now living in the US. That bill was subsequently not approved by the House.

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