Defunding DHS Won’t Stop Immigration Action

As the Cromnibus meets its fate today, it’s important to be aware that shutting down DHS at the end of February, which is the option implicitly being preserved by the congressional Republican leadership to propitiate angry conservative gods, won’t necessarily stop the president’s executive action on immigration. Scott Wong of The Hill explains:

Eighty-five percent of DHS employees continued to work during last year’s 16-day shutdown because they were funded with mandatory funds or deemed “essential” to national security or public safety, according to figures the Congressional Research Service (CRS) tracked down for GOP lawmakers.

Only 15 percent of DHS employees were furloughed in last year’s shutdown, the CRS found. On top of that, some 90 percent of the department’s U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), the agency key to implementing Obama’s executive action, continued operating.

And that ain’t all. The percentage of employees still working during a “shutdown” could easily be boosted to 100%.

Some rank-and-file Republicans are worried that Obama could declare all DHS workers “essential” and keep them on the job — then simply pay them once a funding deal is reached.

So this whole gambit looks increasingly like an exercise in buying time in hopes that conservatives will be obsessed by something else when February 27 rolls around.

As Greg Sargent points out today, there is, of course, another recourse for “frustrated” Republicans wanting to overturn Obama’s executive action: pass immigration legislation he can sign. But that would require that Republican first unite on what they actually want to do on immigration, and we are no closer–nay, we’re much further away–to that prerequisite than we were when House Republicans stopped pretending they’d have any sort of vote in the Congress just ending.

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Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.