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President Obama Signed “Clean” Funding Bill for Department of Homeland Security

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On March 4, 2015, President Obama signed into law a bill that funds the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) for the rest of the fiscal year.  The law prevented a partial government shutdown and represented a win for Democrats, who defeated efforts by House Republicans to block the President’s executive actions protecting undocumented migrants.  The House approved the bill by a vote of 257 to 167, with the support of all the House Democrats and 75 Republicans.  In February, the legislation cleared the Senate.

For weeks, House Republican leaders had refused to take up the Senate’s version of the DHS funding bill because it omitted provisions targeting the President’s immigration policies.  The House’s initial version of the bill, passed in January, would have defunded executive actions on immigration opposed by many Republicans.  Specifically, the bill prevented the executive from funding its deferred action policies, including the President’s November 2014 Executive Action, the “Morton Memos,” the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, and other Executive Actions dating back to 2011.  These policies permit certain undocumented migrants to stay temporarily in the United States.

Republicans who oppose the policies assert that the Executive is selectively enforcing immigration laws in a manner that ignores statutes passed by Congress.  Senate Republicans, however, were unable to obtain enough votes to pass the bill with the immigration riders, and House Speaker John Boehner (Ohio) ultimately presented the “clean” version of the bill to his party members in the House as a necessary means to avoid a government shutdown.

While the outcome of the DHS appropriations debate permits the Executive to continue carrying out many of its policies benefiting immigrants, the future of the President’s 2014 Executive Action is still unclear.  Last month, a federal judge in Texas ordered a temporary injunction prohibiting the President from going forward with the Executive Action until the court decides the merits of a lawsuit brought by Texas and other states to permanently block the policies.  The Federal Government appealed to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, which will hold an oral argument on April 17 to determine whether to stay the district judge’s order.

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