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Congresswoman Norma Torres

Representing the 35th District of California

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Local Democrats warn of San Bernardino County impacts if Homeland Security not funded

February 26, 2015
In The News

A short-term funding bill for the Department of Homeland Security looked likely to pass before funding was to expire at midnight, in the midst of a national debate over security and immigration that was based in part in the Inland Empire.

Democrats were at first unsuccessful in their requests to get passage of a “clean” bill — one that would fund the department without the Republican-added amendment that would revoke President Barack Obama’s executive actions on immigration.

More than 20 House Democrats lined up Thursday to make requests for unanimous consent to immediately consider such a bill, beginning with Rep. Pete Aguilar, D-Rancho Cucamonga.

“We never should have gotten to this point — to be twenty-four hours away from a shutdown of the Department of Homeland Security was completely avoidable and is absolutely unacceptable,” Aguilar said in a prepared statement. “Speaker (John) Boehner and the House majority need to stop gambling with American lives and jobs, and pass a clean bill immediately.”

Republicans emerging from a closed-door strategy meeting told The Associated Press that Boehner was “pretty adamant” that the Department of Homeland Security not be shut down, especially in light of a threatened terrorist attack at the Mall of America, and so would put three weeks of DHS funding up for a vote today.

Like Aguilar, other Inland Empire Democrats have warned of the local effects of not authorizing DHS funding.

Ontario, for example, stands to lose $1.6 million in funds for its Fire Department. Other local fire agencies that get federal fire service grants include Adelanto, Apple Valley, Barstow, Big Bear City and Redlands, according to a list prepared by Rep. Norma Torres, D-Ontario.

“Having spent much of my career in public safety, I know how important it is to be able to plan, prepare, and maintain the morale of those on the front lines,” said Torres, who was a police dispatcher. “These grants help our communities meet critical emergency management needs and make sure our first responders have the equipment they need to keep us and themselves safe. Putting these funds at risk is reckless.”

Rep. Paul Cook, R-Apple Valley, couldn’t be reached Thursday.

But national security discussions are a way to distract from the attempt to stop an executive action that many Republicans consider unconstitutional, said Robin Hvidston of We The People Rising, which will lead a protest today in front of the DHS satellite office in San Bernardino.

“The Republican bill handles absolutely nothing at all regarding cutting back anything on security,” Hvidston said Thursday. “It is very focused on defunding Obama’s amnesty plan. So that’s a smokescreen.”

American citizens, including veterans, the unemployed and homeless, should benefit from legislation, not individuals in the United States illegally, she said.

House Republicans last month tied funding for the Homeland Security Department to reversal of two of the president’s policy directives. Those directives, issued in 2012 and 2014, largely eliminated the threat of deportation for more than 4 million immigrants who entered the country illegally, including some brought to the United States as youngsters by their parents.

The rally is set to begin at 10 a.m. in front of the security satellite office, 290 N. D St.

Another Southern California Democrat, Rep. Brad Sherman of Sherman Oaks, said he wouldn’t accept any pay for as long as the DHS was shut down.

“As long as the employees of the Department of Homeland Security including Border Patrol, Coast Guard, and TSA are working while not receiving paychecks, I will ask that my paycheck be withheld,” Sherman said in a prepared statement. “House Republicans should pass a clean funding bill and end this political gamesmanship that compromises our national security.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.