It'd be an overstatement to say that House Republicans have completely ignored immigration during the entirety of the 113th Congress. Sure, the GOP majority in the lower chamber killed comprehensive immigration reform, and Republican leaders broke their word about acting to improve the system, but they've actually passed three important bills on the issue.
The first was in June 2013
, when the chamber voted for Rep. Steve King's (R-Iowa) measure to defund President Obama's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program that allows Dream Act kids to stay in the country.
The second was in August 2014
, when House Republicans approved Rep. Michele Bachmann's (R-Minn.) proposal to report young immigrants and cut off all foreign aid for Central American countries that failed, to the GOP's satisfaction, to curtail the temporary migrant crisis.
The House of Representatives issued another largely symbolic rebuke to President Barack Obama's agenda Thursday, voting to roll back his immigration executive order that could help up to 4.1 million people avoid deportation. The measure narrowly passed with a vote of 219 to 197. [...] "The president thumbed his nose at the American people with his actions on immigration. The House will make clear today that we are rejecting his unilateral actions," House Speaker John Boehner said ahead of the vote.
OK, but Republicans "making clear" how unhappy they are is literally the only consequence of the legislation. It stands no chance of passing the Senate and it will not receive President Obama's signature. Literally everyone involved in the process fully understands that today's exercise was about Republicans thumping their chest
, wasting time with a symbolic legislative slap with just seven days remaining before the next shutdown deadline, all in the hopes of making conservatives feel better emotionally.
The roll call for today's vote is online here
. Note that three conservative Southern Democrats voted with the GOP majority, while seven Republicans broke ranks and opposed the bill. (Some of them voted "nay" because they said the bill wasn't right-wing enough.)
What exactly was in the legislation approved by the House today?
The bill the House just passed would ban the Department of Homeland Security from giving relief from deportation, or work permits, to any "category" of immigrants who are here unlawfully, or who come unlawfully. The government could still issue protections from deportation -- but they would have to be on a case-by-case basis. Republicans believe that this would prevent President Obama from implementing the executive actions he announced last month, which would allow about three and a half million unauthorized immigrants to apply for protection from deportation and work permits. But here's the problem for Republicans: the Obama administration maintains that its new program is "case-by-case," not categorical. So according to the administration, even if the bill somehow passed into law -- which it's extremely unlikely to do -- it wouldn't actually ban anything the president is actually doing.
This might pose a problem if the legislation were a serious attempt at governing, but since House Republicans were just going through the motions to make themselves feel better, the fact that the proposal is substantively ridiculous is arguably irrelevant.
The whole thing is a farce.
Looking ahead, GOP leaders hope this little exercise will placate right-wing lawmakers long enough to prevent a government shutdown a week from today, though whether House Republicans will balk at such a patronizing gesture remains to be seen. Watch this space.