Spending Bill a Platform for Immigration Debate
The House of Representatives voted Wednesday to approve a bill that attempts to undo President Obama’s programs protecting immigrants who were brought to the United States as children, or who are parents of United States citizens.
The actual purpose of the bill was to provide $39.7 billion to the Department of Homeland Security as funding for the rest of the year. Legislators from both parties agreed that the funding was necessary to fund cyber security and counterterrorism measures as a priority following the recent attacks in Paris.
However, five amendments were added to the bill before the vote that, if signed into law, will defund the president’s immigration acts, allowing for the deportation of protected people and halting the circulation of work permits.
House Republicans are facing accusations of placing politics over national security, both from Democrats and from within their own party.
When interviewed on CNN’s “The Situation Room,” South Carolina Republican Senator Lindsay Graham said, “to my Republican colleagues, we’re playing with fire here. We need a robust homeland security budget now.” He went on to add that “all of the intelligence eyes and ears are beginning to be deaf and blind because of sequestration.”
Representative Steve Israel, a Democrat from New York, echoed Graham’s sentiments, saying, “for the first time in history, they are holding our security hostage to the politics of immigration. How will you explain your vote if a disaster occurs?”
The President threatened to veto the bill, should it reach his desk, but it is unlikely to pass in the Senate. Republicans hold 54 seats in the Senate, but the bill needs 60 votes to move forward, and Democrats are expected to oppose it unless major changes are made. One of the amendments sure to receive changes passed 218-209, with 26 Republicans joining Democrats in opposition. The amendment in question was added to remove Obama’s 2012 policy that granted work permits and stays of deportation to immigrants who were brought to the United States as children.
None of the amendments appear to deal with the topic of refugees. The numerical ceiling for refugee admissions is decided annually by the President and Congress, and may be an issue in later bills.
Current funding for the Department of Homeland Security expires on February 27th. If a compromise is not reached by then, the Department will have to shut down until one is reached, affecting the Secret Service, the National Security Agency, the Coast Guard and other necessary government agencies.