US Senate Republicans passed a bill Wednesday that would make it easier for the Department of Homeland Security to deport people who have been in the country illegally for more than six months, while also barring the administration from enforcing new rules to increase deportations.
The Senate voted 78-27 to advance the bill, which is expected to be voted on by the full Senate later this month.
It is a reversal of last year’s immigration bill passed by the House, which was designed to address the backlog of people who had been living in the US illegally.
The House bill would have required DHS to make a determination within 90 days of being contacted that an individual was a serious threat to national security, the Department’s Office of Management and Budget said in a statement.
“The Senate bill will provide a permanent path to removal and ensure that those who are here illegally cannot simply be thrown out of the country,” said Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy, the bill’s sponsor.
“I applaud Senators Leahy and Murphy for standing up for the American people and standing up to those who seek to abuse our immigration laws.”
Under the House bill, if the Department determined that an immigrant posed a threat to the country’s security, it could deport them.
Under the Senate bill, however, DHS would have to make the determination within 60 days.
The legislation would also require that immigrants be given a court date within 180 days, and that any removal orders issued by DHS be served by the same federal judge.
“As I’ve said from the very beginning, we cannot allow the president to take away our rights, and we cannot stand idly by and allow his administration to abuse the immigration laws,” said Senator Amy Klobuchar, a Democrat from Minnesota.
“We need to keep our country safe and we need to be vigilant to ensure that we’re not being abused.”
Republicans say the bill will help the department to deal with an influx of people entering the country after President Donald Trump signed an executive order earlier this month that suspended most refugee resettlement programs.
The move sparked protests across the US, and led to widespread condemnation of Trump.
Trump signed the order on Tuesday, saying it would suspend the US refugee resettlement programme for 120 days.
He said the decision was made because of the “unacceptable surge” of refugees entering the US.
“The administration believes it has no choice but to suspend this programme immediately.
The only choice we have is to suspend it and allow our country to be safe and secure,” Trump said.
“So I want to make sure we have people who are good people coming in who are willing to do us a favor.”
The US has already been at the center of controversy over its immigration policies.
In the weeks since Trump’s executive order, immigration arrests have surged, with some 10,000 people being held in detention in the past week alone.
A new report released by the US government earlier this week said that at least 9,000 immigrants have been held in immigration detention facilities since Trump took office, an increase of nearly 1,000 since January.
Trump has vowed to bring back the controversial policy of keeping undocumented immigrants in the United States as a way to prevent future attacks.
The Associated Press contributed to this report