The House on Thursday voted to crack down on undocumented immigrants and localities that shelter them, approving two bills President Trump has championed but that are certain to meet resistance in the Senate.
The legislation from the Republican-controlled House would increase prison sentences for those re-entering the country illegally and pressure so-called sanctuary cities to comply with federal immigration officials, including through cutting federal funds.
While the measures gave the president a modest, if predictable, win, they would need Democratic support to clear the Senate’s 60-vote threshold, an unlikely prospect.
As Senate Republicans worked on the other side of the Capitol to salvage their health care bill and notch their first major legislative victory of Mr. Trump’s presidency, House Republicans trumpeted the immigration-related bills as common-sense measures to bolster public safety.
John F. Kelly, the secretary of homeland security, made an unusual appearance at the Capitol to praise the bills. He criticized sanctuary cities — a broad term for localities that limit how local law enforcement officials cooperate with federal immigration officials — by saying they prioritize “criminals over public and law enforcement officer safety.”
“It is beyond my comprehension why federal, state and local officials sworn to enforce the laws of the nation, as I am, would actively discourage or outright prevent law enforcement agencies from upholding the laws of the United States,” Mr. Kelly told reporters.
The bills touch on immigration issues that were central to Mr. Trump’s presidential campaign that he has revisited as president and tried to address through executive action. On Wednesday, meeting with families of victims of crimes committed by unauthorized immigrants, Mr. Trump called on lawmakers to pass the bills.
It was unclear what the fate of the bills would be on the Senate side, though it appeared unlikely senators would pass them as-is. Senator Joe Manchin III of West Virginia, one of the few Democrats who voted for similar legislation in recent years, said he would need to review the House legislation before committing.
Senator John Cornyn of Texas, the No. 2 Republican, is working on a broader border security bill that would incorporate aspects of both House immigration bills, including defunding sanctuary cities, two Senate aides said.
One of the House bills, known as the No Sanctuary for Criminals Act, potentially broadens the pool of money that cities could lose for not cooperating with federal immigration officials. It also seeks to indemnify local law enforcement officials who detain immigrants on behalf of the federal authorities from lawsuits, making the federal government the defendant in such cases. The bill passed 228 to 195.[MORE]