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Ex-DHS Secretaries to GOP: Don't Hold Up Funding for Homeland Security Over Immigration Ideology

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All three former Secretaries of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), including two Republicans, are calling on Republicans to stop insisting that homeland security funding be tied to the GOP’s ideological battle against the President’s immigration actions.  

In a letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), former DHS Secretaries Tom Ridge, Michael Chertoff, and Janet Napolitano write:

The national security role that DHS plays, and by extension the funding that allows it to carry out its vital national security mission, is critical to ensuring that our nation is safe from harm…

…we cannot emphasize enough that the DHS’s responsibilities are much broader than its responsibility to oversee the federal immigration agencies and to protect our borders.  And funding for the entire agency should not be put in jeopardy by the debate about immigration.  The President has said very publicly that he will ‘oppose any legislative effort to undermine the executive actions that he’ has taken on immigration.  Therefore, by tethering a bill to fund DHS in FY 2015 to a legislative response to the President’s executive actions on immigration, the likelihood of a Department of Homeland Security shutdown increases.

It is imperative that we ensure that DHS is ready, willing, and able to protect the American people.  To that end, we urge you not to risk funding for the operations that protect every American and to pass a clean DHS funding bill.

The three former secretaries join current DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson in requesting that Republicans in Congress save the immigration debate for the actual legislative process and expeditiously pass a clean DHS spending bill.  Johnson stated “Now is not the time for the budget of the Department of Homeland Security to become a political volleyball.”

Republicans in the House and Senate have been implementing a strategy that makes funding the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) conditional upon including legislative language to overturn the DACA program for DREAMers and to block last November’s executive actions from taking effect.  But their craven willingness to risk the nation’s security over ideological differences with the President is finally being exposed.  The argument for holding up DHS funding is weak and growing weaker.  Some in the GOP are even trying to rationalize their predicament by downplaying the possible effects of a failure to fund DHS.  Yikes.

Meanwhile, Democrats are united and on offense.  Senate Democrats have joined together and sent a letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell calling on him to pass a long-term DHS funding bill without additional language on immigration.  President Obama has made clear he will veto any legislation that seeks to overturn his sensible and legal executive actions, leaving Republicans no choice but to follow the advice of former and current DHS secretaries.

According to Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice:

This is not a partisan food fight over a small-bore issue.  This is a basic question of whether Congress will fund the agency tasked with protecting the homeland.  For Republicans, it’s time to face facts.  They don’t have the votes to stop the immigration policy changes initiated by executive action, and they have taken a hostage – DHS funding – that they can’t shoot.  If any of them actually care about living up to their stated pledge to govern responsibly, they must recognize reality and approve a clean DHS bill.