WASHINGTON — US President Barack Obama fought back on Monday against Republican efforts to block his immigration plan, urging a federal court to allow the shielding of deportations and demanding Congress fund homeland security.
The Justice Department filed a motion on Monday to a federal court in Texas calling for it to stay its injunction issued last week against the immigration plan – a blow to Obama's efforts to reform a system most lawmakers agree is broken.
Obama's plan, issued by executive order, would shield some four million undocumented people in the country from deportation and provide those who qualify with temporary work permits, but critics say it's an abuse of presidential power.
Immigration is shaping up as a political flashpoint of 2015 in the US.
In a bid to directly block the unilateral action, Republicans introduced amendments to a Department of Homeland Security funding bill that would grind the immigration plan to a halt.
The measure has stalled in the Senate, and lawmakers have until Friday to ram the legislation through, craft a compromise, or risk a DHS shutdown.
"If Congress wants to have a debate about immigration, the president and I welcome that debate," Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said.
"But don't tie that debate to the funding of the men and women standing behind me who have multiple missions on behalf of homeland security," he told reporters.
"I am urging in the four or so working days (lawmakers) have this week to figure out a way to break the impasse." Should Congress fail to agree on DHS funding, most agents in the field, including border security personnel, airport screeners, and Secret Service agents tasked with protecting the president, would remain on the job without pay.
Funds for new border agents, training and equipment would be frozen.
Crucial emergency management programs would halt.
"This is no way to run a government," Johnson said.
Obama himself hammered the point home Monday to state governors gathered at the White House, where he warned of the trickle-down effect of withholding 100,000 salaries." These are folks who, if they don't have a paycheck, are not going to be able to spend that money in your states," Obama said.
"It will have a direct impact on your economy, and it will have a direct impact on America's national security." Senate Republicans have introduced their DHS funding bill, complete with immigration-blocking amendments, three times, and Democrats have blocked it each time. A fourth vote was set for later Monday, with the same result expected.
Some Republicans warned that their party will be blamed should Congress fail to fund DHS at a time of heightened security concerns.
Republican Senator Lindsey Graham blamed Obama's "failed" foreign policy for the surge in terror threats, he told ABC News that "the worst thing to do is having the Republican Party add gasoline to the fire by defunding the Department of Homeland Security." — AFP