New York Times (Editorial)
February 25, 2015
If Republicans in Congress don’t relent on their quest to thwart President Obama’s executive actions on immigration by refusing to fund the Department of Homeland Security, there’s only one agency in the gargantuan bureaucracy where business would largely continue to operate as usual.
It happens to be the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, which processes visa, work permit and green card applications and is the very agency responsible for accepting petitions for deferred action from deportation that the Obama administration has offered to certain unauthorized immigrants.
Unlike other parts of the department, U.S.C.I.S. is funded almost entirely by applicant fees, rather than taxpayer dollars, making it immune to government shutdowns.
Republicans have warned that they will pass a bill to finance the Department of Homeland Security only if it includes a provision that blocks Mr. Obama’s initiatives, which would allow certain longtime immigrants to remain in this country and work lawfully, but would not provide a pathway toward citizenship.
Mr. Obama has rightly threatened to veto any such legislation, arguing that the steps the White House intends to take are the best alternative to comprehensive immigration reform, which Congress has failed to pass for decades.
If the department is not funded, 30,000 people, or roughly 15 percent of the work force, would be furloughed. Most of its employees would be considered “essential” and asked to show up to work even though they wouldn’t be getting paid. The collateral damage of the stalemate are tens of thousands of families who depend on the biweekly paychecks of these front-line workers, including border patrol agents and airport security screeners.
“There are serious consequences for the working men and women of our department if they are required to come to work and try to make ends meet without a paycheck,” Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson said earlier this week. “For themselves and their families.”
While critical functions, such as law enforcement operations, would continue, officials say the halt in funding would compromise their ability to respond effectively to a natural disaster and could make the country more vulnerable to organized crime and even acts of terrorism.
At U.S.C.I.S., there is one program that would have to be suspended: E-Verify, the online service that allows employers to check the employment eligibility of workers.
For more information, go to: www.beverlyhillsimmigrationlaw.com