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Former DHS chiefs urge Trump, Congress to fund agency during shutdown

Trump spars with Pelosi over SOTU

Five former Department of Homeland Security (DHS) secretaries who served in both Republican and Democratic administrations urged President Trump and congressional leaders to broker a budget agreement to reopen the government and fund the agency they once led. 

"We write to you today with a simple message – fund the critical mission of DHS," the former DHS chiefs wrote Wednesday in a letter to the White House and members of Congress. "Homeland security is national security. DHS has a vital mission: to secure the nation from the many threats we face."

"We call on our elected leaders to restore the funding necessary to ensure our homeland remains safe and that the Department's critical national security functions continue without compromise," they added. 

The former secretaries who signed the letter were Tom Ridge, Michael Chertoff, Janet Napolitano, Jeh Johnson and John Kelly, who led DHS before starting his tumultuous tenure as Mr. Trump's chief of staff. Kelly left the administration on Jan. 2 after reported rifts with the president.  

DHS is one of the agencies affected by the partial government shutdown — the longest in U.S. history. Thousands of DHS employees — including Coast Guard units, Border Patrol officers and Transportation Security Administration (TSA) personnel — are not being paid because of the prolonged shutdown.

The White House and congressional Democrats continue to be locked in an impasse over negotiations to reopen the government. On Saturday, the president unveiled what he billed as a "compromise" on immigration to end the shutdown, but the offer received widespread criticism from both sides even before Mr. Trump officially announced it. 

Senators are scheduled to vote on the president's proposal — as well as on the funding bill passed by the Democratic-controlled House which does not include Mr. Trump's border wall funding demand — on Thursday afternoon. Both proposals currently lack enough support to pass.