By Mike Lillis - 08/01/14 05:09 PM EDT
House Democrats hammered Republican leaders on Friday for what they characterized as a mean-spirited GOP approach to the southern border crisis.
"We're looking at possibly one of the most anti-Hispanic Congresses in generations," Rep. Joe Garcia (D-Fla.) said at a briefing in the Capitol.
A host of other Democrats leveled similar criticism.
Rep. Rubén Hinojosa (Texas), chairman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC), said the Republicans' border proposal was part of an "extreme agenda" that will punish the young immigrants; Rep. Xavier Becerra (Calif.), head of the House Democratic Caucus, accused Republicans of "stripping the rights and protections of children"; Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham (N.M.) characterized the GOP bill as "an effort ... [to destroy] diversity in this country"; and Rep. Luis Gutiérrez (D-Ill.) said GOP leaders embraced "the least common denominator of hatefulness toward the immigrant community" by crafting their bill to win conservative support.
"For weeks … they [Republicans] have said that they [the immigrants] are disease-ridden, lice-filled, gang bangers, drug dealers [and] mules of the drug cartels who have come here in hoards to invade our nation," Gutierrez said. "And now they are demonstrating that that's how they feel in their legislation."
Unveiled Friday afternoon, the Republicans' $694 million proposal would increase funding for immigration judges, deploy National Guard troops to the border and scale back a 2008 human trafficking law to expedite deportations of the children.
A separate bill, to be voted on afterward, would freeze funding for Obama's 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, prohibit the president from expanding the program and bar the administration from issuing work permits to illegal immigrants.
Taken together, the package represents a move to the right for GOP leaders who had failed Thursday to rally enough Republican support to send their first measure to the Senate. They were prepared to recess for August on Thursday without addressing the border issue. But an uprising from rank-and-file members — many from Texas, which is bearing the brunt of the migrant wave — caused a change of heart.
Republicans said the new package strikes the right balance between managing the new arrivals and protecting the border.
"[The bill] will strengthen border security and provide for an orderly, lawful, and compassionate way to deal with the influx of unaccompanied minors arriving in our country," Rep. Marlin Stutzman (R-Ind.) said in a statement.
The House is expected to vote on the GOP bills Friday night.
The legislation has no chance of becoming law, because the Senate has recessed for the month and the White House has threatened a veto. Still, a number of Republicans were wary of returning to their districts without at least having tried to address the issue.
Democratic leaders accused Republicans of playing politics.
"It is simply a message they want to send, not a solution that they want to affect," Rep. Steny Hoyer (Md.), the Democratic whip, charged Friday. "Republicans are racing to the right, putting forward the harshest and most draconian policies they can think of. This crisis demands an immediate response."
Gutiérrez accused GOP leaders of bowing to "the loudest, meanest most vile voices" in the Republican conference in crafting their bill.
He said Congress's inaction will worsen conditions at the border, and he warned the Republicans that their border strategy won't come without the political cost of alienating Hispanic voters.
"The way you treat one of us today is the way you have treated all of us," Gutiérrez said. "And we will remember that."