Congress playing a dangerous game with safety

Congressional Republicans bungled just about every chance to take action on immigration reform. President Barack Obama eventually took action on immigration reform. So the GOP doesn’t want to fund the Department of Homeland Security.

Makes sense, no? Only in that parallel universe called “Inside the Beltway.”

The DHS is set to run out of money on Feb. 27 — less than two weeks from now. For all its faults, the DHS should not be the political football with which the Republican-controlled Congress attempts to score a touchdown against President Obama.

This is the agency, which was created by President George W. Bush in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, whose mission is to prevent any additional terrorist attack on American soil, secure borders — whether at airports or along the Rio Grande — safeguard cyberspace and enforce immigration laws. This last one is the rub, of course.

Lawmakers are at an impasse, and the DHS is the inappropriate proxy in the fight against the president’s immigration order.

So far, the Senate has tried three times to pass a DHS funding bill. All three tanked. Last month, the House of Representatives passed a bill to finance the department, but it included language that would kill Mr. Obama’s executive action, protecting from deportation 5 million undocumented immigrants.

Senate Democrats have been standing firm, pushing for an unsullied funding bill and going so far as to stage a filibuster to keep Republican lawmakers from taking an action on the bill.

Not two months into the 114th session of Congress and it has already devolved into a brawl between not just Republicans and Democrats — which is to be expected — but also Republicans and Republicans. Who will end up bloodied and bruised? Government shutdown, anyone?

First, the president, who dragged his own feet, finally took executive action in November to shield illegal immigrants who have children who are U.S. citizens from deportation. It was an overdue, limited and fair step to get a handle on the mess that is U.S. immigration policy. After all, Congressional Republicans didn’t see fit to do much of anything even when their political-party brethren, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, offered palatable measures.

Second, what the president did was perfectly legal.

Third, he will veto any measure that undoes his executive order.

That means Republicans will be responsible for defunding the DHS as terrorism continues to hit — if not close to home, then American families who have lost loved ones in the ISIS fight against the West. This is the department that checks illegal immigration at the Mexican border, always a priority — and a barrier to progress on the Republican side of the aisle — and keeps airliners from being blown out of the sky.

Unfortunately, the demand to keep the country safe and secure has become another basic breadand- butter issue for Americans. But Congress is poised to block almost $1 billion that goes directly to the states to harden infrastructure and enhance law enforcement.

For sure the DHS has real issues to address — disturbing slippage in the Secret Service’s professionalism and competence for instance. Last year, an independent report criticized U.S. Customs and Border Protections’ “lack of diligence” in investigating fatal encounters in which its agents were involved.

This, of course, is how the game is played — inside the Beltway. But ensuring citizen’s safety is nothing to play with.

› From Tribune News Service.


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