The Republican-written bill, approved on a vote of 283-138, calls for construction of about 1,127km of fence along the 3,200km border with Mexico. Democratic opponents said the measure was a charade designed to help Republicans ahead of the November 7 elections.
Steny Hoyer, a Maryland Democrat, said: “This is to score political points that are going to be demagogued in 30-second ads.”
He accused Republicans of trying to appeal to the “fears and passions” of people. He and other Democrats called for a broad immigration overhaul along the lines of the bill passed by the US Senate that would create a guest worker programme and legalise millions of illegal immigrants.
George Bush, the US president, backs comprehensive legislation and a guest worker programme and spoke about the need for it during a meeting with House Republicans at the Capitol on Thursday.