DHS Might Shut Down on Friday: Should You Be Worried?

PHOTO: A U.S. Border Patrol agent rides along the Border Fence on an ATV, Nov. 18,2014, near Hope Park in downtown Brownsville, Texas. PlayThe Brownsville Herald, Brad Doherty/AP Photo
WATCH DHS Funding Deadline Looms

In an ideal world the Department of Homeland Security submits a budget plan for the coming year, lawmakers who control federal money approve it and then DHS gets funded for that full year.

But since September, Republicans and Democrats haven’t been able to agree on a full year of funding –- instead, twice since then they’ve agreed to fund DHS for a couple of months, each time hoping to reach a deal on a full year of funding. Time runs out again Friday night, but no deal is in sight.

Republicans irked by President Obama’s plan to give legal status to 5 million illegal immigrants say this time they’ll let DHS “shut down” unless the Obama administration backs down from its immigration plan. Democrats insist DHS funding shouldn’t be tied to a presidential action taken without Congressional approval.

But if DHS does “shut down,” should you be worried? It depends who you are, and how long the shutdown lasts.

If you’re one of the 40,000 DHS employees who will be furloughed, you won’t get paid for your time off -- even if you're struggling to pay your mortgage or put food on the table. And if you’re one of the tens of thousands of front-line personnel who still has to show up at work each day, you won’t get paid either -- even those of you putting your lives on the line. It’s unclear whether any future deal in Congress will reimburse you for the paychecks you’ll miss.

If you’re one of the millions of others in America whom DHS is supposed to protect, there won’t be much of an impact from a shutdown lasting only a matter of days.

If a shutdown lasts weeks or months, however, here’s how that DHS mission will be affected, according to DHS officials:


  • If a major snowstorm or earthquake or even terrorist attack hits a city or state, DHS won’t be able to send the state federal funds for recovery.
  • State and local authorities rely on federal grants to afford many of their first responders, but new grant requests won’t be processed – potentially forcing cities and towns across the country to cut back on police, fire and ambulance services.
  • Each month, FEMA trains thousands of state and local emergency personnel how to handle “very specialized” cases such as those involving Ebola, anthrax or sarin gas, but that training will stop.


  • 500 recruits currently in training in Georgia will be sent home, wasting significant amounts of taxpayer money already invested in them and possibly losing them as recruits.
  • CBP won’t be able to replace or upgrade aging surveillance systems along the Southwest border
  • Certain criminal cases against those trying to cross the border illegally or smuggle prohibited items into the United States will slow or stop, especially after lawyers at CBP are sent home.


  • The Secret Service won’t be able to make certain security upgrades at the White House in the wake of several recent breaches there.
  • The 2016 presidential candidates could be put at risk because the Secret Service won’t be able to pay “for the things we need” to protect them.


  • ICE will miss out on hundreds of millions of dollars intended to address “unaccompanied minors” and families still crossing the Southwest border illegally.


  • “Nothing to report here,” though training and other “non-essential administrative functions would cease.”