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The Immigration Theater

The Immigration Theater

I was able to spend a couple hours today watching C-SPAN, which, I’ll admit, may not sound very exciting. Yet, I was able to witness a fascinating piece of political theatre that had me at times depressed, at times hopeful and often on the edge of my seat. The stage had been set in the last Congress, when during Congress’s budget bill, Republicans delayed looking at funding for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). This delay is why the bill was known as the CRomnibus, because it funded DHS on previously agreed-to levels (the Continuing Resolution, or CR, part), and set new funding levels for the rest of the government.

That delay lasted until now. Buoyed by a new Congress, the House of Representatives sought to tie in funding to DHS (which oversees immigration enforcement) to measures that would prevent President Obama’s recent executive action on immigration from being implemented. Five amendments were offered, each taking aim at many recent actions on immigration, including the President’s, but the two most important ones were the Aderholt Amendment and the Blackburn Amendment. The Aderholt Amendment prohibits DHS from using funds to implement any of the programs directed by President Obama’s recent executive action, as well as a handful of other executive actions, while the Blackburn Amendment prohibits funds going to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program that shields DREAMers from deportation, effectively ending it.

The RAC has spoken out in favor of President Obama’s executive actions on immigration, both when the President announced the DACA program and more recently when he announced the Deferred Action for Parental Accountability (DAPA) program in his November 2014 executive action. We mobilized opposition to these amendments, creating an action alert for our activists to send to their Representatives in the House and sending a letter to House offices from Rabbi Jonah Pesner, the director of the Religious Action Center. Rabbi Pesner wrote,

“While we would prefer and continue to advocate for a comprehensive, legislative approach to fixing our country's broken immigration system, the actions taken by President Obama are significant steps toward creating a more just, humane and secure immigration system. Together, they will enable people to come out of the shadows, strengthen our national security, meet the needs of employers, and allow millions of immigrants and their families to live without fear of immediate deportation.”

The amendments passed, both without Democratic support, and were added onto the bill (Department of Homeland Security Appropriations Act, H.R. 240), which also passed (also with no Democratic votes). The bill will now move to the Senate, where it is not expected to get the 60 votes needed to pass cloture due to its partisan nature. So, it’s likely that after all of this political theater, Congress will have to go back to the drawing board and find a bill that appeals to members across the aisle. The RAC will be here to cover the fight over that bill, too.

Published: 1/14/2015

Categories: Social Justice