US Immigration Dispute Threatens Security Agency Shutdown
by VOA News February 24, 2015
Another political dispute is threatening to shut down part of the U.S. government, this time over funding President Barack Obama's immigration policies and the Department of Homeland Security.
Money for the agency runs out Friday, which could furlough 30,000 workers while leaving another 200,000 employees deemed essential working without pay until the dispute is resolved.
Republican and Democratic lawmakers say they want to approve $40 billion in new funding for the agency that patrols the country's borders, staffs security checkpoints at airports, and protects Obama and his family.
But Republicans want to block funding for the president's plan to halt deportation of nearly five million immigrants who entered the country illegally.
Senate Democrats have blocked majority Republicans in the Senate four times from passing the homeland security spending plan that cleared the Republican-controlled House of Representatives.
With no end to the impasse in sight, Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he would split the budget legislation and call for a separate vote on Obama's immigration policy changes. But it is still not clear how the Department of Homeland Security would be funded or whether House Republicans would accept the change in legislative strategy.
Homeland Security chief Jeh Johnson said, 'Overall, a shutdown of Homeland Security would have serious consequences and amount to a serious disruption in our ability to protect the homeland.'
Democratic Senator Barbara Mikulski said Homeland Security employees are working this winter in harsh conditions. She said, 'They're out there saving lives and we are playing parliamentary ping-pong.''
Republican Senator John Barrasso said it is important to halt Obama's immigration restrictions, introduced without congressional approval by executive order.
'Congress is the appropriate place to make laws about America's immigration policy,' Barrasso said. 'It is not something the president gets to decide on his own.''
The White House's immigration orders angered Republicans, who believe Obama's actions go beyond his presidential authority. But House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi says the president's immigration changes are similar to those taken by previous U.S. presidents, including Republicans.
The president's policies include expansion of a program that protects young immigrants from deportation if they were brought to the United States illegally by their parents. The government had planned to start taking applications last week, but a judge in Texas halted the president's orders, a decision the government is appealing.
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