By Medha Imam
WASHINGTON –President Barack Obama urged the nation’s governors Monday to support his efforts to secure funding for the Department of Homeland Security.
As part of his remarks at the White House, Obama warned the governors of the “direct impact” a partial department shutdown could have on the states’ economies and the overall national security.
“As governors you know that we can’t afford to play politics with our national security,” the president said.
Congress has linked the homeland security budget to immigration reform in an effort to block Obama’s recent executive order, which permits undocumented immigrants–whose children are American citizens– to remain in the U.S. without fear of deportation.
This has led to a dispute over the Homeland Security budget as Republicans seek to exert leverage in their opposition to the executive action. Obama said congressional gridlock will cause more than 100,000 DHS employees to be left unpaid, since the agency’s $40 billion temporary budget runs out on Feb. 27.
Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, chairman of the National Governors Association, said he and his fellow governors engaged in a “robust conversation” with the president on homeland security and immigration reform during their closed meeting.
“There are certainly a number of governors that want to make sure that funding continues,,” Hickenlooper, a Democrat, said. “Almost all governors want to figure out a solution as quickly as possible.”
Hickenlooper defended Obama’s stance on immigration, saying the White House believes deporting some 11 million undocumented immigrants would be “ridiculous” and would have a negative impact on the economy.
“Everyone recognizes that the time has probably come that immigration needs to be solved now,” Hickenlooper said.
Utah Gov. Gary Herbert, a Republican, called upon Congress and the president to “work together to resolve those issues,” and ultimately establish a “permanent” solution for immigration.
On a range of issues, Herbert said the states serve as “laboratories of democracy” for developing solutions to the nation’s problems.
“We’d like to see the states have more autonomy and ability to, as the president said, to do the creative work that comes with solving some of the problems,” the governor said. “…allow us, in fact, to find solutions that are unique to our own perspective states.”
The governors are in Washington for their mid-winter meeting.