by Jim Nintzel
Speaker of the House John Boehner promised a showdown over President Barack Obama’s November executive action on immigration once a new Congress was sworn in.
And today, just two weeks into the new congressional session, the showdown has come exactly where it was expected: In a battle over funding the Department of Homeland Security.
Congress passed a spending plan for the department, but tied it to two amendments: One, sponsored by Rep. Robert Aderholt (R-Ala.), would prohibit federal funds from being spent to assist with the Obama administration’s expanded program providing deportation relief from up to 5 million undocumented immigrants, while the other, sponsored by Congresswoman Martha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), blocked federal funding for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program that has sheltered undocumented youth who were brought to the United States as children from deportation. (Here's more background on today's vote, via The New York Times.)
The Southern Arizona congressional delegation split along party lines, with Democratic Congressman Raul Grijalva and Congresswoman Ann Kirkpatrick voting against the bill and Republican Congresswoman Martha McSally voting for it.
McSally said she voted for the funding package because it served as the first step toward improving border security.
She said she supported blocking the Obama administration’s executive action on immigration because it “set a dangerous precedent that threatens the very Constitutional principles and separation of powers on which our country is founded. It’s critical that Congress, as the direct representation of the people, stand up for those principles.”
But McSally was one of 26 Republicans who voted against the Blackburn amendment that targeted the DREAM Act kids.
“It is neither practical nor fair to deport young migrants who freely came forward, giving information such as fingerprints and home addresses to our government, under the auspices that they would be given deferred status,” McSally told the Weekly via email. “Those who came here through no fault of their own, have passed background checks, earned high school degrees, and are pursuing the American dream should not be punished for the President’s irresponsible action.”
Grijalva said that by adding the amendments, Republicans were “playing political games” with the Department of Homeland Security’s funding.
“While Republicans claim to be the party of security, nothing could be more dangerous than playing political games with funding for the Department of Homeland Security—especially at a time of heightened alert,” Grijalva said in a press release. “It’s absurd and irresponsible to hold this budget hostage, and to once again threaten a partial government shutdown. These funds are intended to keep Americans safe—not serve the ideological agendas of politicians with axes to grind.”
Kirkpatrick expressed similar sentiments and called on Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform that included a resolution to the status of undocumented immigrants now in the United States.
“I support a robust, fully funded Homeland Security,” Kirkpatrick said in a prepared statement. “What I do not support is cynically tying this agency’s funding to a measure aimed directly DREAMers—young people who were brought here as children and call our country home. Telling these kids they cannot attend school, contribute to our economy or enlist in our military is like telling them the American dream was meant for someone else. Instead of taking aim at children, Congress should pass a bipartisan Homeland Security bill—like the one both chambers negotiated last November—and then get back to the important business of comprehensive immigration reform.”
The bill’s next stop is the U.S. Senate, where it may face a Democratic filibuster. The Obama administration has said it will veto the legislation if it passes Congress.