Terrorism in France Stokes US Political Battles

January 15,2015

WASHINGTON— U.S. lawmakers in both parties have seized upon last week's terrorist attacks in France in an ongoing battle over reforming America's oft-criticized immigration system. Funding for domestic security operations, as well as President Barack Obama’s executive actions on immigration, stand in the crossfire.

The terrorist carnage in Paris sent shockwaves around the world and re-energized a political fight on Capitol Hill.

"While there are many factors that play into the spread of this jihadist ideology in the West, it is time for an honest and plain admission that our open immigration policies are ineffective," said Republican Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama.

Republicans like Jeff Sessions accuse the Obama administration of lax immigration enforcement that imperils America.

"For the national security of the United States, it is imperative that Congress block executive amnesty and restore essential enforcement."

Legislative pairing

On Wednesday, the Republican-led House of Representatives voted to extend domestic security funding while also blocking Obama’s orders shielding millions of undocumented immigrants from deportation. The pairing makes the bill unacceptable to Democrats, who argue the Paris attacks strengthen the case for U.S. immigration reform and make partisan gamesmanship over security funding utterly indefensible.

"First, congressional Republicans obstructed immigration reform legislation. Now, they want to obstruct the very agency responsible for homeland security," said Democratic Senator Richard Durbin of Illinois. "The president’s executive action will make America safer, bringing millions of immigrants out of the shadows to register with the government and to go through background checks."

But John Hudak, political analyst at the Brookings Institution in Washington, said, "The last thing President Obama or any Democrat or Republican wants is to throw open the doors of America to terrorists."

Bombastic rhetoric driven by day-to-day world events hinders America’s ability to rationally address both immigration and security challenges, Hudak said.

"House Republicans and House Democrats are fighting over how to fund the Department of Homeland Security. Obviously, the funding of that department has huge implications for the security of the United States, both here and abroad," he said, calling it "a vital part of public policy."

That fight pits Republicans claiming a need to rein in an out-of-control president against Democrats. It was congressional inaction on comprehensive reform that compelled Obama to act on his own.

With Republicans now controlling both houses of Congress, the face-off with the White House will continue – with domestic security funding currently hanging in the balance.