Without Congressional action before midnight Friday, DHS will be forced to shut down. The struggle for DHS funding has been a tumultuous process thus far, with many Senators voting against the House-passed spending bill because it contains harmful immigration-related amendments. While a number of Senators, including Sens. Heller (R-NM), Flake (R-AZ) and Kirk (R-IL), have pushed for the Senate to pass a clean bill without amendments that would separate families and harm young people who came to the United States as children, Congress’ continued inability to reach consensus makes a DHS shutdown increasingly likely.
In the event of a shutdown, significant immigration enforcement activities, including immigration detention, enforcement and border security functions will remain in place. However, much like the 2013 government shutdown, a DHS-wide shutdown will reduce or make unavailable many services that directly impact migrants and refugees.
In the last shutdown, oversight and transparency functions within DHS operated at a reduced level, such as Immigration and Custom Enforcement’s (ICE) community outreach unit and DHS’s Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties. E-Verify, the electronic employment verification system operated by DHS was unavailable, meaning employers were unable to electronically verify an employee’s eligibility to legally work in the United States and workers were unable to dispute any technological errors.
If DHS shuts down this year:
- Federal employees whose jobs are necessary for “safety of life and protection of property” will continue to work. This includes border patrol officers.
- E-verify would be unavailable.
- Employee training would halt.
The key difference this year is that this shutdown will affect only DHS and not other agencies, like the Department of Justice. It is not yet clear how DHS will proceed in immigration court cases as their trial attorneys, who prosecute immigration cases on behalf of the government, appear before immigration judges in courts operated by the Department of Justice.
As always, we will keep you updated as we learn more about the DHS spending bill.
In the meantime, please consider visiting LIRS’s Action Center to urge your elected representatives to stand with people of faith in protecting the vulnerable and welcoming the newcomer.