(CNSNews.com) – Three former secretaries of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS)--including two that served under Republican President George W. Bush--have sent a letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) urging him not to include language in the DHS funding bill to prohibit President Obama unilateral executive actions on immigration that will allow as many as five million illegal aliens to stay in the United States without fear of deportation.
They said that if Congress did include such language in the bill "the likelihood of a Department of Homeland Security shutdown increases." In other words: President Obama might veto the bill and shutdown the department.
“We appreciate that Congress possesses the authority to authorize and appropriate funds expended by the federal government,” said the letter, which was signed by former DHS secretaries Tom Ridge, Michael Chertoff and Janet Napolitano. “We do not question your desire to have a larger debate about the nation’s immigration laws.
“However, 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 letter continued.
The three former DHS secretaries pointed out that President Obama “has said very publicly that he will ‘oppose any legislative effort to undermine the executive actions that he’ has taken on immigration,” adding that “tethering a bill to fund DHS in FY 2015 to a legislative response” increases the “likelihood of a Department of Homeland Security shutdown.”
Nowhere in the letter is there any indication that the three former heads of DHS are also urging President Obama to reconsider his position.
Administration officials have emphasized that the president will not back down if the new Republican majority in the Senate passes a bill overriding his executive actions on immigration, even if that means vetoing funding for the entire department.
“If a bill that includes such language comes to the president’s desk, his staff and I will recommend to the president that he veto it,” current DHS Sec. Jeh Johnson noted in a letter to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) earlier this month. “Now is not the time for the budget of the Department of Homeland Security to become a political volleyball.”
“There is no reason to tinker with the executive actions at all,” added Cecilia Munoz, director of the White House Domestic Policy Council.
However, McConnell himself has pointed out that by bypassing Congress, the president “lacked the legal authority to act."
“The action he’s proposed would ignore the law, would reject the voice of the voters, and would impose new unfairness on law-abiding immigrants – all without solving the problem. In fact, his action is more likely to make it even worse,” McConnell said last November shortly after Republicans won control of the Senate.
“If President Obama acts in defiance of the people and imposes his will on the country, Congress will act,” McConnell vowed.
On January 14, the Republican-led House voted 236-191 to pass legislation funding DHS through the end of September. Current funding for the department runs out at the end of February.
An amendment submitted by Rep. Robert Aderholt (R-AL) and passed on a roll call vote “prevent[s] any funds from whatever source to be used to carry-out the Executive actions announced on November 20, 2014 to grant deferred action to certain unlawful aliens… and four of the ‘Morton Memos’ on prosecutorial discretion and immigration enforcement priorities issued in 2011 and 2012 that effectively prevent certain classes of unlawful aliens from being removed from the country.”
Aderholt’s amendment also “provides that no funds may be used to grant any Federal benefit to any alien as a result of the policies defunded.”
Other amendments require state and local officials to detain criminal illegal aliens who would otherwise be released so that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials can begin deportation proceedings, and prohibit the Executive Branch from using any DHS funds to “consider new, renewal or previously denied DACA [Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals] applications.”
“We do not take this action lightly, but simply there is no alternative,” House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) said on the House floor at the time. “This executive overreach is an affront to the rule of law and to the Constitution itself.”
The Senate is expected to consider the DHS funding bill next week.