GOP opposition to the administration’s executive action on immigration continues to threaten a Department of Homeland Security shutdown on Feb. 27. On Monday, the Senate tried for the 4th time to bring up the funding bill, which passed the House with amendments that barred the administration from moving ahead with plans to provide deportation relief and work permits to some 4 million illegal immigrants. But some fissures are appearing in the ranks.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has announced his intention to bring up a separate bill in the Senate that would repeal the administration’s executive action in the hopes that passage would steer the way for passage of a clean funding bill for DHS. Senators John McCain, Bob Corker, and others have also signaled that a shutdown would be disastrous at a time of heightened security concerns. Others have pointed out that a federal district court injunction issued last week, which at least temporarily blocks the administration’s plan to give work permits to some illegal immigrants, alleviates the need for the House-passed amendments to the DHS funding bill.
So what’s likely to happen? It’s anybody’s guess. Anti-immigration forces are gearing up to flood Congress with appeals to block DHS funding, but few in the GOP really want to be labeled as playing politics with national security. Newspaper headlines warning of threats to the Mall of America, the continued march of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, concerns about young women fleeing homes in the West, among others to join ISIS are likely to make most Americans wary of shutting down DHS. When the GOP was responsible for a government-wide shutdown in 2013, its popularity fell to barely a third, according to polls at the time.
Unfortunately, all the back and forth on DHS funding has made moving forward on passing legal immigration reform more remote than ever. No one wins. More than 11 million people remain in the shadows. Employers in industries from agriculture to high tech can’t fill jobs for lack of qualified and willing workers. Resources that could be put to better use focusing on drug traffickers and possible terrorists are frittered away hunting down landscapers and nannies at the border. And our legal immigration system remains broken.