In November, President Obama issued an executive action that would protect nearly five million undocumented immigrants in the United States. Yet, since Congress returned in January, many questions linger regarding the implementation of executive action and the status of comprehensive immigration reform.
Last week, the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs hosted a hearing regarding “Deferred Action on Immigration: Implications and Unanswered Questions.” The purpose of the hearing according to Chairman Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) was to “obtain a more complete understanding of the logistical, financial, and national security implications of these [executive action] policies.” Yet, many questions still remain.
Among other things, Obama’s November action expanded the 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program and provided legal reprieve to the undocumented parents of U.S. citizens and permanent residents who have resided in the country for at least five years. It protects a small number of the 11 million aspiring Americans who are living and working in the United States without documentation. At it is root, Obama’s executive action considers the people, not the politics that create division.
The GOP majority in Congress is attempting to oppose executive action by threatening to defund the Department of Homeland Security. While the House passed a spending bill funding DHS in January, the proposed budget included multiple amendments that “sought to cut funding for past and future immigration executive actions.” One amendment, sponsored by Rep. Robert Aderholt (R-Ala.), would prohibit funds from any source to be used to carry out executive action. Another would essentially eliminate the DACA program.
Last week, the DHS spending bill was sent over to the Senate to vote. It was rejected three times. On Jan. 27, every member of the Senate Democratic Caucus signed a letter to Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) asking for a “clean” DHS funding bill without the anti-immigrant House amendments.
If an agreement is not reached by Feb. 27, the DHS will temporarily shut down. The department is not only responsible for border control — it also houses our TSA employees, counter terrorism efforts, and disaster relief support. The shutdown of these enterprises would only be harmful to America’s citizens.
The current DHS funding bill tears families apart, creates fear among America’s children, and undermines our nation’s history as a beacon of hope for immigrants. By rejecting the current executive action policies, members of Congress are using human lives as political bargaining chips in Washington.
My favorite definition of insanity is “to do the same action over and over again and expect different results.”
Sitting in the senatorial hearing room last week, I listened to witnesses and policymakers who, through my ears at least, sounded somewhat insane.
How can we as Americans continue to reject those who came to our country seeking refuge and opportunity? How can we as Christians stand silent as strangers in our land continue to be reduced to a social security or tax identification number?
As people of faith, prayers are necessary. As compassionate citizens, policy is also necessary. I urge you to follow the progression of the congressional debate surrounding the DHS funding bill. Eleven million of your brothers and sisters are depending on it.
Kaeley McEvoy is Campaigns Assistant for Sojourners.