On Oct. 1, 2013 the Department of Homeland Security shut down for 16 days. For those who were not aware, the DHS consists of our local law-enforcement, firefighters, U.S. Secret Service, Transportation Security Administration, United States Coast Guard and many other agencies.
At the end of every year, the DHS submits a budget plan for the next year. Lawmakers who control federal money approve it and then the DHS gets funded for the full year.
That, unfortunately is in an ideal, make-believe world. Since September, Republicans and Democrats have not been able to agree on an amount for a full year of funding. They have, however, been able to agree on funding DHS for a few weeks at a time, in the hopes that it will buy them time to reach an agreement for the full year.
Time has now run out and the DHS is on the brink of shutting down once again.
Funding isn’t the only thing that can make the DHS shut down. As most of society is aware, President Obama announced back in November his plans to protect several million illegal immigrants from deportation.
Many people, primarily the Republican Party, demand to stand their ground in an effort to stop Obama’s bill, saying this time they’ll “let the DHS shut down unless the Obama administration backs down from its immigration plan.”
I strongly disagree with the way the Republicans are handling this situation.
This immigration bill has nothing to do with the funding that DHS needs. Republicans took the fact that DHS needs funding and used it to their advantage in bullying the Democratic Party into giving them what they want – for them to take the immigration plan off the table.
Although I hate to admit it, the U.S. has a greedy desire for cheap labor such as nannies, gardeners and harvesters. But along with its desire for cheap labor, the U.S. also has laws that can make labor expensive.
Labor laws protect workers from unsafe conditions, unrealistic work hours and gives them a minimum wage. Further welfare for those who do not work, which, let’s face it, a lot of people would rather not have a job at all than have a mediocre one.
An American who will agree to work for cheap labor is the one in a million that households, factories and farms need.
Immigrants, however, would happily work these jobs. In many developing countries, laborers earn less than $2,000 a year. If they were allowed to come to the United States to work, they could easily make 10 to 15 times that.
So then why are Republicans troubled in this immigration plan?
Because giving immigrants citizenship would require agreement on who is entitled to it, and it would mean finally confessing that our illegal immigration system is unfair.
Is it fair that Republicans are threatening to allow DHS to shut down if we don’t throw away this immigration plan? No.
The Republicans need to realize that without immigrants, none of these cheap labor jobs would have workers.
Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell has to plant a hold of the road on the clean bill that will fund the department to the end of the fiscal year.
To get a clear look at how many people the DHS shutdown could affect, here are some numbers.
50,000 TSA screeners, 40,000 border patrol agents, 40,000 U.S. Coast Guard members, 13,000 immigration and customs enforcement agents and 4,000 Secret Service agents would be working without pay.
Regardless of what the White House decides about the immigration plan, the DHS should not be a victim of the outcome.
Editor’s note: Since time of writing, Congress attempted to pass a three week stopgap budget plan to temporarily fund the Dempartment of Homeland Security, but failed.