The House Judiciary Committee approved a tough new immigration bill that would make it a federal crime, instead of just a civil offense, to be in the country illegally.
The legislation is enforcement focused and passed by a 20-15 vote Tuesday night. The bill would give state and local officials the power to enforce federal immigration laws.
The passage comes as the Senate considers a bipartisan bill that opens the door to citizenship for millions of illegal immigrants.
Democrats say the House bill is dangerous and disappointing, but Republicans say the measure is needed to ensure enforcement of the law.
The vote took place as a new government report showed the Senate's immigration reform bill would boost the economy by giving legal status to an estimated 8 million immigrants now in the country illegally.
House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said any immigration bill passing the House ought to have majority support from both Republicans and Democrats.
Setting the standard that high could make it tougher for the bill to pass.