Carolyn Kaster/AP/PA

US lawmakers vote to torpedo Obama's immigration reform plan

The bill has virtually no chance of passing the Senate, however.

THE US HOUSE has defied President Barack Obama by adopting Republican measures blocking his controversial immigration reform efforts, though the bill is unlikely to survive in its current form.

Lawmakers voted 236 to 191 to fund the Department of Homeland Security through September 30, the end of fiscal year 2015.

But the bill included several amendments torpedoing the plan Obama unveiled last November, which authorised the administration to provide work permits for millions of undocumented workers.

This proposed legislation had offered hope to some of the 50,000 undocumented Irish citizens living in the US. Though it would not help all of them, the reforms would mean protection for those who have had children in the country since they emigrated there.

One amendment would also freeze the program Obama launched in 2012 that currently shields some 600,000 undocumented minors from deportation.

Another would prohibit authorities from prioritizing deportation of criminals over that of other illegal immigrants who have not committed serious crimes.

“We do not take this action lightly, but simply there is no alternative,” House Speaker John Boehner said.

“This executive overreach is an affront to the rule of law and to the constitution itself.”

Some 11.3 million people were living illegally in the United States as of March 2013, the Pew Research Center estimated.

The last comprehensive immigration reform by US lawmakers dates back to 1986.

Since then, all attempts at major revisions have failed, most recently in 2013 amid conservative opposition.

Democratic lawmakers, labor unions and rights groups have complained bitterly about the obstruction, but they let loose Wednesday over what they believe are misguided Republican policies to speed up deportations and throw a wrench into Obama’s reform efforts.

The White House dismissed today’s vote as “political theatre” and promised a presidential veto of the amended legislation, which has virtually no chance of passing the Senate where Democrats have a blocking minority.

“At the end of the day we are confident that we are going to be implementing these executive actions,” White House domestic policy director Cecilia Munoz told reporters.

Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid said the bill “will not pass” the Senate.

“Republicans have only been in control for a week and already they are picking an unnecessary political fight that risks shutting down the Department of Homeland Security and endangering our security,” Reid said.

“Republicans should stop playing games and pass a clean bill to fund (DHS).”

The scenario sets up a showdown between newly empowered congressional Republicans and Obama over the prospects of a shutdown at the agency charged with maintaining national security.

Congress has until February 27 to formalize funding for DHS, which oversees border security, immigration and customs, and the Secret Service tasked with protecting the president.

Democrats used the example of last week’s deadly Paris attacks to denounce the Republican tactics.

“Homeland security is the last thing in this body that should be subject to a political compromise. Not after the attacks on France, not after 9/11 when we pledged to keep the American people safe,” Democrat Steve Israel told the House.

- © AFP 2015 with reporting by Michelle Hennessy.

Related: Undocumented and living in the US? Here’s what the new immigration reforms mean for you>

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