Defending our Victories for Immigrant Families and Children

Jenny Siegel | January 16, 2015

Photo: Orhan /

Photo: Orhan /

Together the CWS network has been part of huge victories for immigrant families in 2014. We fought to keep protections and humanitarian screenings for Central American children fleeing violence while the House of Representatives wanted to take it away. We assured ample funding for refugee resettlement when they tried to repurpose it. We won executive action and temporary relief from deportation for five million undocumented people. And now the House of Representatives wants to go back in time, and ignore the power we have built. Congress passed a budget last December that funded the government through the 2015 fiscal year. However, it only funded the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) until February 28th. In efforts to address a longer term funding solution for DHS Congress needs to pass another budget. The House of Representatives wants to stop our movement by attaching legislative riders to the DHS funding bill that take away the President’s executive action. The Homeland Security Appropriations Bill H.R. 240 was proposed in the House with five amendments that are harmful to immigrant families—it passed the House yesterday with a vote of 236-191.

Not only do they seek to undo the President’s action on immigration, they also expose hardworking families to the threat of deportation, perpetuate situations of family separation, and deny DREAMers opportunities to work and pursue education in this country. One of the amendments is masked to protect victims of domestic violence, but instead is likely to deter victims of domestic violence from reporting a crime. This bill has NOT passed into law, but it is rooted in discrimination and is spreading fear within immigrant communities about whether or not to come forward and apply for the Deferred Action programs for children and the one for parents of U.S. Citizens or lawful permanent residents—DACA and DAPA.

Thankfully, this harsh anti-immigrant bill is not expected to become a law. Next it will go to the Senate where it will be voted on sometime in February, and it is not likely to make the 60-vote threshold in order to break a filibuster. Many moderate Republicans in the Senate have already voiced their disagreement with House tactics, suggesting that DHS funding shouldn’t be tied to controversial legislation. Additionally, if this bill is to somehow make it to the President’s desk, which seems very unlikely, the administration has already stated they would veto it.

We have seen the GOP split on this vote because of the power we have already built in districts around the country. Ten Republican Representatives decided to vote “no” on the DHS Appropriations bill—in no small part because constituents like you demanding that they defend immigrant families. One such member is Representative Denham, serving California’s 10th district, who stated that, “Shielding young people from deportation…is the right thing to do.”

There is still much work to be done and your help is needed! The House came out strong with new leadership to show their opposition to the President’s actions and have expressed their anti-immigrant sentiment in an intimidating way. Now we must continue to come out even stronger showing that we support for the President’s action on immigration, that we support humane policies that support family unity. We can show Congress that actions of love are stronger than those of hatred.

How can you help? You can make your voice heard – we have seen it work already! It is time for us to put pressure on the Senate and make it known that this sort of anti-immigrant legislation will not be tolerated. When you call, write, meet or tweet your Senators, you are helping to hold them accountable in their responsibility to act for the common good. We can make sure that the Senate strikes down the DHS bill by supporting Senators that are pledging to stand with immigrant families and make it known that any vote against immigrant families will not go unnoticed. Call your Senator at 1-866-940-2439 to tell them your thoughts! Or work with your Senator’s local office to set up a meeting with a delegation of community leaders. Tweet @yoursenator today to defend immigrant families. Together, we will make sure to stop the House bill in its tracks and get a clean DHS funding bill without these evil amendments.

Jenny Siegel is a Policy Assistant for Immigration & Refugee Policy in CWS’s Immigration and Refugee Program.