It looks like there will be a fight in February over President Barack Obama’s extension of legal status to millions of illegal immigrants.
This week, two bills submitted by House Republicans were filed in which plans to use appropriations for the Department of Homeland Security in order to forestall or prevent entirely the implementation of the president’s executive order were laid out. On Friday, the House Republicans settled on a plan.
According to reporting, the House plan will fund DHS through the rest of the fiscal year while also preventing further executive action by the president. The House GOP plan also reverses his executive action of 2014 and undoes Obama’s 2012 executive order creating a program that allows the children of illegal immigrants to apply for deferred deportation (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA).
The emerging plan blocks funding to carry out the directives outlined by the Obama administration in its immigration executive actions last November, as well as the 2012 program Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals and the 2011 memos, called the “Morton memos.”
It revives the federal enforcement program Secure Communities, and it forces state and local officials to comply with so-called ICE detainers, in which Immigration and Customs Enforcement asks local law enforcement agencies to keep an immigrant in custody, even if they would otherwise be released.
It also significantly reins in how the administration can use so-called parole, which is discretion on which immigrants to allow into the United States. The proposal is backed by groups that push for tougher enforcement of immigration laws, such as NumbersUSA and Federation for American Immigration Reform.
“House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) said earlier in the week that he hoped to release the DHS funding bill on Friday and have it on the floor next week,” The Hill reported. “Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Wednesday the Senate would consider the funding in February, and promised the department would remain open.”
The apparent decision to target not only Obama’s executive amnesty but DACA could make it harder for Senate Republicans to secure the votes of the six Democrats they need in order to get to 60 and send a measure to the president’s desk, where it would invariably be vetoed. It goes without saying that this move will make it impossible for Republicans to net bicameral majorities robust enough to override a presidential veto.
It is unclear, however, that Democrats will be all that eager to prevent Republicans from trying to use a fight over DHS funding to blunt the president’s actions on immigration. According to a letter circulated in the House by Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-TX), Democrats see a political opportunity in attacking the GOP over setting the stage for “another manufactured crisis.”
“Gaming the appropriations process and using the Homeland Security funding bill as a way to defund the President’s immigration executive order is a political shot that misses the mark and puts our nation at risk.”
Democrats, and their allies in the press, will seek to make the case that Republicans are willing to sacrifice national security in order to prevent extending legal status to illegal immigrants. Even if an impasse over Obama’s immigration order leads to a partial shutdown of DHS, though, it would have a negligible impact on national defense.
Roughly 85 percent of DHS employees continued to work during the October 2013 shutdown for those reasons, according to the Congressional Research Service. For employees whose jobs were considered essential – or “necessary for the preservation of the safety of human life or the protection of property” – their paychecks were withheld until the shutdown was over.
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, the agency that will implement the heart of Obama’s executive actions – deferred deportations and new work permits for potentially millions of undocumented immigrants – is almost entirely fee-funded, so its staffers will continue working right through a shutdown.
If this measure fails to attract the six Democrats it needs to pass the Senate, it will be up to the upper chamber to craft a bill that can. Republicans have, however, set the terms for negotiations at a place that should be favorable to conservatives. They will not get all of what they have asked, but it sets the stage for a fight in which many believed the GOP would decline to engage.