The House of Representatives passed a bill on Thursday that would punish "sanctuary cities" for shielding citizens from federal immigration authorities.
Specifically, the Enforce the Law for Sanctuary Cities Act would withhold funds directed to a state or local government if it prevents "law enforcement officials from gathering information regarding the citizenship or immigration status, lawful or unlawful, of any individual."
A sanctuary city is a term attributed to places that protect undocumented citizens from federal law enforcement via local policies.
The act passed the House 241 votes to 179, and brought with it intense debate within the government as Obama threatened a veto on Thursday.
Democrats noted the bill's alignment to presidential candidate Donald Trump's incendiary views on immigration.
"The Donald Trump wing of the Republican Party is clearly ascendant here today," Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Texas, said in debate, according to the Associated Press. "This bill is not about grabbing criminals; it's about grabbing headlines."
The bill is also considered a waste by Democrats, defocusing legislators from creating more thorough policies on immigration. But Republicans say the bill is essential, considering the shooting death of Kathryn Steinle on July 1 by an alleged undocumented immigrant who was deported five times and convicted of seven felonies.
"This system of laws failed Kate Steinle," Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., said, according to the National Journal.
"There are criminals motivated by malice and a conscious disregard for the lives of others, and there are cities more interested in providing a sanctuary for those criminals than they are in providing a sanctuary for their law-abiding citizens."
"This is more than an academic discussion. ... It is quite literally life and death."
Allowing law enforcement officials to collect individual data on immigration would infringe on the civil rights of all Americans, the White House said, backing its veto claim.
H.R. 3009 was introduced on July 9 by Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., and backed by 44 co-sponsors. Of the 239 votes approving the bill, 235 were from Republicans.