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Obama Cautions Against Domestic Security Agency Shutdown


President Barack Obama speaks to members of the National Governors Association, Feb. 23, 2015.
President Barack Obama speaks to members of the National Governors Association, Feb. 23, 2015.

President Barack Obama is warning that a partial shutdown of the Homeland Security Department would have a serious impact on national security and the U.S. economy.

The Republican-led House of Representatives has linked a measure to fund the Department of Homeland Security with provisions to block Obama’s executive action to shield close to 5 million undocumented immigrants from deportation.

The Homeland Security Department's $40 billion budget is set to run out Friday at midnight because of a dispute over the president's executive action.

Republicans who control both houses of Congress believe Obama's actions go beyond his presidential authority.

Speaking to a meeting of U.S. governors at the White House Monday, Obama warned that, “one week from now, more than 100,000 DHS employees - border patrol, port inspectors, TSA agents, will show up to work without getting paid."

Johnson Stands with Homeland Security Employees

U.S. Homeland Security Department Secretary Jeh Johnson went to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services headquarters in Washington to highlight the plight of affected employees. Johnson explained that 75 to 80 percent of department employees would be considered essential personnel, and would have to report for work, but there would be no money to pay them, and most of the administration staff that normally processes paychecks would be furloughed.

Essential employees would include members of the U.S. Coast Guard, transportation security officials at airports and Border Patrol agents.

Flanked by staff members, Johnson called on the U.S. Congress to fully fund his agency, saying now is not the time to even contemplate a lapse in funding.

Johnson said every day he presses his staff at DHS headquarters to stay one step ahead of terror groups such as Islamic State, to stay one step ahead of threats to aviation security, to closely monitor and to stay one step ahead of illegal migration on the southern border, and to stay one step ahead of weather conditions in a very harsh winter.

Al-Shabab Terror Threats to US Shopping Malls Heighten Concern

The funding showdown comes as Johnson warned that the Somalia-based extremist group al-Shabab posted a 75-minute video on Saturday calling for “Westgate-style” attacks on shopping centers around the world, including the Mall of America in Minnesota.

The group claimed responsibility for the 2013 attack on the Westgate Shopping Mall in Nairobi, Kenya that left more than 60 people dead.

Some law enforcement officials said the video threat is a concern because it may be meant to inspire action from some in the large Somali population in Minneapolis, near the Mall of America.

Obama administration officials said Monday they are taking the threats seriously, but they are not aware of any specific, credible plot against the Mall of America or any other U.S. shopping center.

Congress Returns After Recess - "the Clock is Ticking"

The House and Senate are back in session this week, and have only four days left to break the impasse over deferred deportations to fund homeland security.

House and Senate Democrats are calling for what they call a “clean” funding bill with no provisions on immigration attached. House Republicans blame Senate Democrats for blocking debate on the House bill in the Senate.

Some House Republicans say the impact of a partial shutdown would not be as dire as many people think, because essential employees will still be on the job. They blame the president for what they say is a violation of the Constitution in issuing an executive order to shield some immigrants from deportation.

So far, lawmakers have not presented a plan to end the funding fight, but some say they do not want to leave the Department of Homeland Security unfunded at a time of heightened terror alerts. Secretary Johnson warned lawmakers - “the clock is ticking.”

US Asks Texas Judge to Suspend Immigration Ruling

The Obama administration is seeking to lift an injunction issued by a Texas judge that would block the president's plan to defer the deportation of the undocumented immigrants.

The Justice Department is responding to U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen's order in a legal fight that could be destined for the Supreme Court. Last week, Hanen issued a preliminary injunction sought by 26 states to halt the president's immigration order.

Most Democrats continue to support Obama’s expansion of immigrant rights. The House minority leader, Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi, says the president’s immigration actions are similar to those taken by previous U.S. presidents, including Republicans.

The president's executive order included expansion of a program that protects young immigrants from deportation if they were brought to the United States illegally by their parents. The program was to begin receiving applications on Wednesday. The president's order also would protect parents of U.S. citizens and permanent residents who have been in the country for at least five years, and have committed no serious crimes.