|| Constituents of the Fourth District
|| Congressman Randy Forbes
|| February 24, 2015
|| Immigration Memo
This week, Congress and our country are confronted with a question – not just of immigration – but also of the rule of law. While the short term debate is over funding for the Department of Homeland Security and rolling back this Administration's executive actions on immigration, the broader question being considered is whether any president has the authority to selectively enforce and unilaterally rewrite democratically passed laws. Below, I have prepared a brief memo to break down the actions of both the House and the Senate, the process Congress is currently engaged in, and what happens from here.
Every American citizen has a stake in this debate. My hope is that the below memo proves helpful and informative as you engage on this important issue facing our nation.
Yours in service,
The back story…
- In November, 2014, the President announced unilateral actions on immigration, which would allow millions of illegal immigrants to stay and work in the U.S. without a vote of Congress.
- On December 11, 2014, the House passed a bill (H.R. 83) to fund the entire government – with the exception of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) – through the remainder of Fiscal Year 2015. DHS and its sub-agencies are responsible for implementing the President’s executive actions on immigration.
- The President signed this bill into law on December 16, 2014.
What has the House done?
- On January 14, 2015, the House passed a bill (H.R. 240) to fully fund DHS through Fiscal Year 2015. This bill does several important things:
- It provides a total of $39.7 billion in discretionary funding for DHS for Fiscal Year 2015, which is $400 million above Fiscal Year 2014 levels.
- It increases funding for Customs and Border Protection by $118.7 million above Fiscal Year 2014 levels, providing $10.7 billion total.
- It supports the largest operational force in history — 21,370 Border Patrol agents and 23,775 CBP officers.
- It increases funding for Immigration and Customs Enforcement by $689.4 million above Fiscal Year 2014 levels.
- It fully funds the e-Verify program.
- A total of five amendments were adopted to make changes to H.R. 240; two of those amendments — the Aderholt and the Blackburn amendments – work to roll back the President’s executive actions on amnesty:
- The Aderholt amendment gets to the root of the issue by prohibiting the use of all funding – and fees – to be used by agencies like USCIS to implement the President’s executive amnesty plan.
- The Blackburn amendment prohibits the President from expanding the use of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.
- I supported both of these amendments.
What has the Senate done?
- The Senate has had four failed votes to move the bill to the floor for debate — with the most recent happening just last night. These votes are called “cloture votes” and require a 3/5ths majority to pass (typically 60 votes).
- Since Republicans currently control 54 seats in the Senate, Democratic support is needed to achieve the majority vote required to allow the funding bill to be debated on.
- Senate Democrats are continuing to block the bill and refusing to allow a debate.
How has the judicial branch been involved?
- Last week, a federal judge for the Federal District Court for the Southern District of Texas issued an injunction temporarily halting the Administration’s executive actions on immigration.
- The injunction was in response to a federal lawsuit filed by 26 states, challenging the constitutionality of President Obama’s immigration actions. I joined with the American Center for Law & Justice in filing an amicus brief in this lawsuit, arguing the President’s executive action exceeds his constitutional authority.
- In compliance with the federal judge’s order, the Administration has indefinitely postponed the implementation of the President’s executive actions on immigration. However, the White House announced on Friday (February 20th) that the Department of Justice will seek what is known as an “emergency stay” to undo the judge's ruling.
What happens from here?
- The Department of Homeland Security’s funding is set to expire on February 27, 2015.
I joined my colleagues in calling on Senator Reid and Senate Democrats to stop blocking the bill to fund DHS, and allow it to come to a vote. You can read the letter, here or by clicking the image below.
The House has already passed legislation to fully fund DHS; it is now up to the Senate — particularly Senate Democrats — to do the same.
What will it look like if DHS funding expires?
- Lapses in annual appropriations can result in a partial, but not a complete shutdown of DHS operations.
- Personnel who continue to work despite the lack of an appropriations bill generally fall into two categories: those whose activities are not funded through the appropriations process and those whose work is necessary for the preservation of the safety of human life or the protection of property.
- DHS employees deemed ”non-essential personnel” may be subject to furlough (mainly the employees responsible for the department's management and administrative functions).
- During the 2013 government shutdown, approximately 200,000 DHS employees were deemed essential and continued to work, many of them without pay at the time (although back-pay was awarded).
- Examples of employees who are deemed essential and continue to work as usual include TSA screeners, active duty Coast Guard members, immigration law enforcement officers, border patrol and customs officers, and Secret Service agents.
- During a shutdown, DHS is unable to enter into new contracts, purchase new equipment, or provide grants to states for law enforcement operations.
What to expect from Congress this week:
- The House schedule for the week is available, here. The Senate schedule is available, here.
- On Wednesday, the House Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing titled, “The Unconstitutionality of Obama’s Executive Actions on Immigration.”
- Be sure to also keep an eye out for:
- The introduction of a version of Rep. Gowdy's SAFE Act, which I supported last Congress, to make border security not just a priority, but a reality.
- The introduction of the Legal Workforce Act to strengthen E-Verify.
- The introduction of legislation to provide expedited removal of unaccompanied alien children (who are not the victims of a severe form of trafficking or have a legitimate fear of returning to their country of nationality).
- For real time updates on what’s happening this week, like my Facebook page.
My work on immigration:
- I am an original cosponsor of the Preventing Executive Overreach on Immigration Act to rein in the President’s executive amnesty plan.
- I opposed the release of criminal illegal immigrants.
- I demanded deportation of illegal immigrant gang members, and opposed the Administration’s actions to selectively enforce our laws and defer deportation.
- I strongly supported securing the border as our first priority, and have opposed the closure of border patrol stations.
- I support the empowerment of states to protect citizens and combat illegal immigration, and supported legislation to verify employment.
- You can learn about my work on immigration by visiting my website, here.