Legislative Activity

Impact of Government Shutdown on DHS

Despite the government shutdown, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) retained more staff than other agencies because much of its operations cover fields deemed to be “essential,” such as law enforcement and national security. However, DHS officials still report increased challenges due to the overall impact of the shutdown. For example, Customs and Border Protection customs agents are still working without pay, and they face difficulty in operating without legal counsel, trade attorneys, and administrators whose advice they depend on regularly. In addition, after repeatedly asking Congress to fund more border security agents, DHS had to send all of its new recruits home because the agency’s Federal Law Enforcement Training Center has been closed. Private sector employers also report that they are unable to access the E-Verify system to check the legal status of potential hires, which is causing problems for employers in states that mandate E-Verify use.

DHS Nomination Hearings

Last week, the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee approved two Obama Administration nominees for senior DHS positions: current Deputy Undersecretary for the National Protection and Programs Directorate Suzanne Spaulding to be Under Secretary of Homeland Security; and Stevan Bunnell to be DHS General Counsel. The committee approved the nominees en bloc by voice vote in a short, off-the-floor markup. The committee is expected to report out the two nominees to the Senate floor, but their path to confirmation remains unclear due to the upper chamber’s focus on the government shutdown and the impending debt ceiling debate.

Immigration and Border Security

In advance of a national day of grassroots immigration action last Saturday, October 5, Rep. Joe Garcia (D-FL) introduced a comprehensive immigration reform bill (H.R. 15) last Wednesday, October 2, with the support of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and 120 co-sponsors. Instead of introducing the bill passed by the Senate earlier this summer (S. 744), this legislation combines the version of the Senate bill as passed by the Senate Judiciary Committee (S. 744 Committee Print) and the bipartisan Border Security Results Act (H.R. 1417) passed by the House Homeland Security Committee. Importantly, the version of the Senate bill as approved by the Judiciary Committee does not include the border security provisions offered as a Senate floor amendment by Sens. Bob Corker (R-TN) and John Hoeven (R-ND). Democrats hope this bill will garner support from pro-immigration Democrats seeking comprehensive reform and pro-border security Republicans who supported the House’s border security legislation over the Corker-Hoeven language. Democrats also chose this strategy because the House border security bill is widely expected to be the first – and possibly the only – piecemeal immigration bill to move to the House floor before the end of the year.

This Week’s Hearings:

  • Monday, October 7: The House Homeland Security Committee is scheduled to hold a full committee hearing titled “Human Trafficking in U.S. Cities.”
  • Wednesday, October 9: The House Homeland Security Committee is scheduled to hold a full committee hearing titled “Westerners in Overseas Terrorist Organizations.”
  • Friday, October 10: The House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Oversight and Management Efficiency is scheduled to hold a hearing titled “DHS: Investigation of DHS’s Stewardship of Taxpayer Dollars.”