Can a Government Shutdown Halt Executive Action?
After President Barack Obama used an Executive Order to provide relief from deportation to about 5.8 undocumented immigrants, the reaction from the opposition was loud and clear: PREVENT IT. First, a bill passed in the House of Representatives meant to take away the legal authority from the Executive Branch to exercise discretionary power in many deportation cases. Second, currently there are 20 states that have formed a coalition to sue President Obama for allegedly violating the constitution in order to provide “illegal amnesty” to immigrants. Lastly, there is a threat that Republicans might pass a funding bill that funds most of the government except the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and U.S Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), which will only be funded until February 27, 2015. This bill is known as the Omnibus bill but has also been dubbed as the Cromnibus bill.
What happens if DHS and USCIS are not funded?
Virtually nothing, last year during the 16-day government shutdown 85% of all DHS employees continued to work according to the Congressional Research Service. Additionally, only 10% of USCIS employees were furloughed which leaves the vast majority of the department still completely functional. When the government shutdown last year, each agency had to create a report outlining, which employees were deemed “essential” and who could actually be furloughed. So technically, President Obama could direct the different Heads of the Departments to declare all employees of DHS and USCIS to be “essential” for national security purposes. Consequentially, these employees will continue to work and enforce the Executive Order on immigration by the President and they will just get paid after Republicans agree to fund the government again.
The President’s Power
All of the legislative initiatives meant to counteract, halt or eliminate the actions taken by the President on immigration will surely die at the Oval Office. President Obama will still have the veto power to stop any bills that are hostile to programs like DACA and DAPA. Furthermore, congress does not have enough [Republican] votes to override a veto.
Attorney Amna Shirazi from the Shirazi Law Group, INC based in Atlanta, praises the President’s courage on immigration. She is an experienced immigration lawyer that has been able to stop deportations of hundreds of her clients, which helped keep their families together. Attorney Shirazi believes that the Executive Action on Immigration taken by President Obama is a good first step towards a comprehensive Immigration Reform bill that would be able to fix many of the issues that these temporary relief programs can only delay.