TIME Behind the Photos

How Photographers Are Trying to Put a Face on Europe’s Migrant Crisis

"I wanted to show that behind each migrant there’s a person”

European leaders are grappling with what’s being called one of the worst migrant and refugee crises in two generations. On Thursday, in a hastily formed summit in Brussels called after an estimated 800 people died in a capsizing off Libya while en route to Europe, leaders pledged new support to cap the rising death toll in the Mediterranean. But aid organizations and humanitarian officials said Europe is still “lagging far behind” of what’s realistically needed to ease the tragedy.

The crisis along the Mediterranean’s coastlines, from Libya to Morocco and Greece to Italy, is not new. Photographers have worked over the last decade to raise awareness as conflict and poverty in the Middle East and Africa have displaced millions. Last June, one image crystallized the scale of this movement. Shot by Italian photographer Massimo Sestini aboard a helicopter taking part in Mare Nostrum, an Italian-led search and rescue operation largely funded by the European Union and abandoned late last year, it showed one boat with hundreds of people looking up, waving their arms. “You could see their desperation,” Sestini said last year. “And, concurrently, their happiness at being saved.”

The photograph, which TIME named one of the top 10 images of 2014, went on to win a World Press Photo award, but it told only one part of a much larger story.

“The only way to really tell the story is to spend time with them in their home countries, see how they live, learn why they leave and then just go with them on their way,” says Daniel Etter, a German photographer, who has documented migrants in northern Africa and across Europe. He called that “almost impossible” to do. Security risks, travel obstacles and financial barriers get in the way, leaving most photographers unable to build the kind of all-encompassing narrative that could help people understand the true nature of the crisis.

Some photographers have attempted to piece together the stories of migrants who risk their lives on these journeys. Alixandra Fazzina, a photographer with Noor, followed Somali migrants’ arduous trip across the Gulf of Aden in search of a better future in her book A Million Shillings, published in 2010. One in 20 who attempted the crossing lost their lives, their bodies washing up on Yemen’s shore.

She wanted to go deeper, she says, than the “small paragraph you find in a newspaper detailing the number of people that have died… I wanted to find out why they were making the journey. I wanted to find out why these people were willing to put their lives into the hands of smugglers and traffickers? Why would somebody do that?”

Olivier Jobard, a French photographer who followed a Cameroonian man’s trek to France, seeks similar answers. “What’s bothering me when we’re talking about immigration is that we often associate these people with ghosts and shadows,” he says. “They are not human in our minds.”

Italian photographer Alessandro Penso, who has been following migrants around Europe, focusing on hotspots like Greece, Italy and Malta, says he seeks moments of spontaneity to expose the humanity of his subjects.”There are simple gestures and habits in daily life that, as banal as they can seem to our eyes, hide the simple truth that we are all humans and vulnerable.”

Humanizing the people making these dangerous and harrowing journeys is important, Penso and his colleagues argue, especially when photography can lead to misconceptions. Cases in point are the widely published photographs of “hordes” of people scaling border fences in Melilla, a Spanish enclave on the edge of northern Morocco. “[When] people see these images,” says Santi Palacios, an Associated Press photographer who has taken such pictures, “they [think] we’ve been invaded.”

The people portrayed in these images are often seen shirtless and shouting, Jobard says, deliberately assuming a provocative stance. “They actually choose to behave like ‘wild animals’ in these situations—to impress or to scare people because it’s a real battle to get in [Melilla]. Of course, that also does them disservice.”

Once they’ve made it over the fence, he says, the contrast is striking. “They dress up, they take care of their appearances.” Last year, he shadowed a man named Hassan Adam from the Ivory Coast, who spent hours on one of these fences, alone. His friends had made it across to Melilla, successfully avoiding the police forces, but Adam was handcuffed, beaten and sent back to Morocco. Jobard tracked him down, months later, after he had finally made it across. “I told his story,” he says. “I wanted to show that behind each migrant there’s a person.”

For all of those who made it over the fence, or past border patrols or across the Mediterranean, there are untold thousands who lost their lives in the search for a new or better one. In October, Italian photographer Francesco Zizola dived 59 meters to photograph the wreckage of a boat that had carried some 500 people, and now rests at the bottom of the Mediterranean. He sought to convey the vastness of the tragedy that had occurred one year before, when 360 people lost their lives.

“I wanted to show to everybody that our comfortable, bourgeois homes could turn—as if in a nightmare—into that cabin with the red curtain, which I photographed inside the sunken ship,” he says. “That cabin is the tomb of our collective conscience and a memento of our indifference.”

Alice Gabriner and Mikko Takkunen edited this photo essay. With reporting by Lucia De Stefani, a contributor to TIME LightBox.

Andrew Katz is a News Editor at TIME. Follow him on Twitter @katz. Olivier Laurent is the editor of TIME LightBox. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @olivierclaurent.

TIME Behind the Photos

The Story Behind the Photos of a Migrant’s Brutal Killing in South Africa

“I don't have any regrets about taking the pictures.”

Twenty-eight seconds. James Oatway checked the time stamps of the series of pictures he captured of an attack that took place in South Africa’s Alexandra Township last weekend.

It took only 28 seconds for a group of “neighborhood thugs,” the photographer says, to fatally injure Emmanuel Sithole, a Mozambican migrant who ran a small business in Alexandra. Sithole was the seventh person to die in a wave of anti-foreigner violence sparked by controversial remarks made by Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini in which he suggested that foreigners were taking South Africans’ jobs and that they should “pack their belongings and go back to their countries.

The unrest echoes the brutal xenophobic attacks of 2008, which led to the death of 60 foreigners around Johannesburg.

In the early hours of Saturday, Oatway, a nine-year veteran photojournalist of South Africa’s Sunday Times, teamed up with reporter Beauregard Tromp to monitor the looting that had happened overnight in and around the township. The streets were calm, Oatway recalls, although traces of the previous night’s violence were still evident rubbish and burned debris still littered the streets.

After photographing in a looted foreign-owned shop, Oatway saw Sithole walking along a street when several men surrounded him. Using wrenches and knives, the men started beating and stabbing Sithole.

“They were intent on killing him,” Oatway tells TIME. “You could tell by the expression on their faces. They look so angry. They weren’t going to stop.”

At first, the attackers weren’t aware of the photographer’s presence. But then one man alerted them and the group ran off.

Oatway and Tromp rushed Sithole to a nearby clinic but they couldn’t find the doctor who was supposed to be on duty. Oatway learned later that this particular doctor was also a foreigner; he had stayed away from work out of fear of becoming a victim himself.

The photographer and reporter brought Sithole to another hospital but it was too late. The man succumbed to a stab wound that had pierced his heart.

The Sunday Times ran one of Oatway’s shocking photographs on its front page, stirring controversy in a country reeling with the realization that such violence can no longer be attributed to the legacy of Apartheid rule and that there are fundamental problems within society that must be addressed.

Unexpectedly, both the photographer and the Sunday Times became the target of criticism, with some accusing the photographer of failing to help Sithole, and the newspaper of callously publishing a graphic image on its front page.

“I don’t have any regrets about taking the pictures,” Oatway tells TIME. “I don’t have any regrets that the picture was on the front page. I really don’t think I could have intervened successfully in that attack. I think my presence there distracted them and did discourage them. If I hadn’t been there, there would have really been some brutal damages and [they] probably [would have] killed him right there, in a far more brutal manner.”

While Oatway’s photographs are gruesome, the photographer believes they are necessary. “I understand that a lot of people have this view of photographers being vultures, preying on other people’s misfortune,” he says. “But why not direct the anger at the people committing the crime, the people brutally murdering Emmanuel, instead of me just happened to be there and recorded it?”

Following their publication, the photographs led to the arrest of all four men involved in Sithole’s murder.

Oatway remains tormented by the fact that he was not able to bring Sithole to a doctor in time. “Ten minutes would have made a difference,” he says. “That’s playing on my nerves. That’s my main regret.”

Read next: South Africa Deploys Its Army to Halt the Killings of Foreigners

Listen to the most important stories of the day.

TIME Scott Walker

Why Scott Walker’s Immigration Flip-Flop Could Hurt

Republican Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker speaks during a meeting with area Republicans on April 19, 2015, in Derry, N.H.
Jim Cole—AP Republican Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker speaks during a meeting with area Republicans on April 19, 2015, in Derry, N.H.

It sets him apart from primary rivals and party elites

In the early stages of a presidential campaign, the controversy du jour is often less important than it may seem. This is the season of listening tours and message testing, when the real drama is offstage and a trip to Chipotle can command the national news cycle.

But the brewing kerfuffle over Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s new immigration position is a case where there’s more to the matter than meets the eye. His shift on the issue this week could alter the GOP primary, both by setting him apart from key rivals on a critical issue and by reinforcing questions about whether the Wisconsin governor has a habit of revising his policy positions for political gain.

“The next president and the next Congress need to make decisions about a legal immigration system that’s based on, first and foremost, protecting American workers and American wages,” Walker said Monday during an interview with Glenn Beck. “It is a fundamentally lost issue by many in elected positions today—what is this doing, not only to American workers looking for jobs, but what is it doing to the wages, and we need to have that be at the forefront of our discussion going forward.”

Walker’s remarks — which also name-checked GOP Sen. Jeff Sessions, an outspoken opponent of immigration reform — were a departure from many of his past comments on the issue. By raising questions about legal immigration levels, he appeared to espouse a protectionist approach that positions him to the right of much of the GOP primary field.

“Sad to see the full, Olympics-quality flip-flop by a former boss today,” tweeted Liz Mair, who quit her job as a political aide to Walker amid a controversy over her prior criticism of Iowa’s prominent role in the presidential nominating contest.

The shift in policy separates the Badger State Republican from top primary opponents on one of the party’s most dramatic fault lines. Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio have supported an overhaul of U.S. immigration law. Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul has decried the idea of mass deportations and supported work visas and a legal status for the roughly 11 million undocumented immigrants currently in the U.S.

“Governor Walker supports American workers’ wages and the U.S. economy and thinks both should be considered when crafting a policy for legal immigration,” said AshLee Strong, a spokeswoman for Our American Revival, an organization formed to support Walker’s presidential bid. “He strongly supports legal immigration, and like many Americans, believes that our economic situation should be considered instead of arbitrary caps on the amount of immigrants that can enter.”

Walker’s position hasn’t gone over well with some of the party’s top strategists, who believe a more inclusive approach to immigration is both sound policy and smart politics. Nor does it wash with some of the GOP’s most influential donors and thinkers, a group that can alter the trajectory of the presidential primary.

A vast cross-section of business organizations, special-interest groups and Republican bigwigs favor immigration reform — from industrialists who need cheap farm labor to Silicon Valley tech firms that are lobbying to loosen restrictions on H1B visas. Walker’s stance could inhibit his ability to attract the big money he needs behind his campaign. The billionaire Koch brothers, for example, have seeded an organization, known as the Libre Initiative, whose goal is to pitch conservative principles to the Latino voters who overwhelmingly backed Barack Obama over Mitt Romney. “Any call, by anyone, to further restrict legal immigration is not a viable, nor an acceptable policy remedy,” Daniel Garza, the executive director of the Libre Initiative, said Tuesday.

“The overwhelming majority of Americans, Democrats as well as Republicans, want the federal government to secure our borders,” says former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, who has worked to drum up support for an immigration overhaul that make undocumented workers who meet various conditions eligible to apply for green cards. “That same majority understands that we need to increase the number of H1B visas, that there are essential jobs for which we need immigrants, particularly agriculture … we need guest workers in those essential jobs.”

But from a short-term perspective, Walker’s shift may be shrewd politics. He is tapping into a deep vein of populism that runs through the party, especially in early voting states like Iowa, where antipathy toward “amnesty” is an animating value. A January Gallup poll revealed that 60% of Americans are dissatisfied with current immigration levels, including 84% of Republicans.

One veteran GOP strategist said simply that Walker “has got to perform well in Iowa” and that he wouldn’t do so with the more centrist approach he’s taken in the past.

In 2006, when Walker served as Milwaukee County executive, he urged the Senate to pass a bipartisan immigration reform bill. In 2010, when controversial legislation in Arizona became a national flashpoint, Walker criticized the bill. (Just days later, he reversed his position after further researching the issue, according to his then-campaign manager.) In 2013, as Senate leaders worked to craft a bipartisan rewrite of U.S. immigration law, Walker supported a path to citizenship. Asked the same year if he could envision citizenship for immigrants after penalties, waiting periods and other conditions were put in place, Walker told the Wausau Daily Herald: “Sure. Yeah. I think it makes sense.”

And now? “My view has changed,” Walker told Fox News on March 1, opposing a path to citizenship in any form.

Every politician, like every constituent, has a right to change his or her mind. But a windblown approach to policy could shatter the steadfast image Walker earned in the Wisconsin union brawl, and which he hoped to leverage as a cornerstone of his all-but-certain presidential campaign. “It shreds your argument if you say you’re going to be the principled guy,” says the GOP strategist, “but here are all these examples of where he flipped.”

The examples are mounting. There was Walker’s reversal on ethanol subsides, another Iowa hot-button which he backed this spring after formerly opposing. There was his push to repeal Common Core when it became politically toxic in 2014, after previously supporting the standards. There was his decision to sign a right-to-work law after years of disavowing interest in pursuing such a policy.

Walker started well in the Republican nominating contest this year, riding a wave of momentum generated by a strong performance in an early Iowa cattle call. But he is a newcomer to the national stage. Many Republican voters have yet to form their first impression of the Wisconsin governor. Getting tagged with a flip-flopper label could prove an impassable obstacle.

“You do not want to be in a position where you build up a track record of moving around on issues,” says another veteran Republican consultant. “It’s absolutely fatal.”

With reporting by Zeke J. Miller

TIME TIME 100 Gala

Watch Jorge Ramos Pay Tribute to Young Immigrants

The television anchors calls them, 'my real heroes'

Fusion and Univision News anchor Jorge Ramos paid tribute to young immigrants hoping for a chance at the American dream in a moving speech at the TIME 100 Gala.

“It is very difficult to be an immigrant because you have to leave everything,” Ramos said. “You leave your home, your family, your friends, your culture, your language, sometimes your soul.”

He concluded his remarks with a toast to young people brought to the country as children who are battling to secure access to higher education. “My real heroes. The dreamers. You know, they are young, undocumented students who came to this country when they were very young…Because Congress has done absolutely nothing in the last decade on immigration, the dreamers decided to take this on themselves.”

Ramos, a TIME 100 honoree in 2015, also toasted the group of Mexican journalists who, “have denounced corruption at the highest levels of the Mexican government” and paid tribute to political prisoners in Venezuela, including the leader of the opposition in Venezuela, Leopoldo Lopez.

TIME Immigration

Federal Judge Denies Request to Lift Hold on Obama Immigration Action

President Obama pauses before speaking during the Easter Prayer Breakfast in the East Room of the White House in Washington, D.C., April 7, 2015.
Andrew Harrer—Corbis President Obama pauses before speaking during the Easter Prayer Breakfast in the East Room of the White House in Washington, D.C., April 7, 2015.

The first of Obama's orders had been set to take effect Feb. 18

(HOUSTON) — A federal judge in Texas has kept in place a temporary hold on President Barack Obama’s executive action that sought to shield millions of immigrants from deportation, rejecting a U.S. Department of Justice request that he allow the action to go ahead.

U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen in Brownsville refused late Tuesday night to lift the preliminary injunction he granted on Feb. 16 at the request of 26 states that oppose Obama’s action.

Hanen’s latest ruling upholds the status quo — that the Obama administration is temporarily barred from implementing the policies that would allow as many as 5 million people in the U.S. illegally to remain.

The Justice Department had already appealed to a higher court, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans, to lift Hanen’s injunction. The appeals court was scheduled to hear arguments on whether the injunction should be lifted on April 17.

In his order Tuesday denying the government’s request, Hanen said the government hasn’t “shown any credible reason for why this Directive necessitates immediate implementation.”

There was no immediate comment from the White House.

The coalition of 26 states, led by Texas, filed the lawsuit to overturn Obama’s executive action, arguing that it is unconstitutional and would force them to invest more in law enforcement, health care and education.

Justice Department attorneys have argued that keeping the temporary hold harms “the interests of the public and of third parties who will be deprived of significant law enforcement and humanitarian benefits of prompt implementation” of the president’s immigration action.

Obama announced the executive orders in November, saying a lack of action by Congress forced him to make sweeping changes to immigration rules on his own.

Before ruling on the injunction, Hanen said he first wanted to hear from federal prosecutors about allegations that the U.S. government had misled him about the implementation of part of the immigration plan.

The first of Obama’s orders — to expand a program that protects young immigrants from deportation if they were brought to the U.S. illegally as children — had been set to take effect Feb. 18. The other major part would extend deportation protections to parents of U.S. citizens and permanent residents who have been in the country for several years. That provision was slated to begin on May 19.

Hanen issued his initial injunction believing that neither of those orders had taken effect. About a month later, the Justice Department confirmed that more than 108,000 people had already received three-year reprieves from deportation and work permits, but DOJ attorneys insisted the moves were made under 2012 guidelines that weren’t blocked by the injunction. The DOJ apologized for any confusion, but Hanen seemed unconvinced during a hearing last month and threatened to sanction the attorneys.

He wrote Tuesday that while the federal government had been “misleading” on the subject, he would not immediately apply sanctions against the government, saying to do so would not be “in the interests of justice or in the best interest of this country” because the issue was of national importance and the outcome will affect millions of people.

“The parties’ arguments should be decided on their relative merits according to the law, not clouded by outside allegations that may or may not bear on the ultimate issues in this lawsuit,” Hanen wrote.

In a separate order Hanen, told the government it has until April 21 to file to the court and plaintiffs detailed information about its March advisory about the 108,000 three-year reprieves.

The order asks the government to produce “any and all drafts” of the advisory, including information on when each draft was written, edited or revised. Hanen also asked for a list of each person who knew about the advisory.

TIME Immigration

How Mexican Immigration to the U.S. Has Evolved

Mexican Workers
Chicago History Museum / Getty Images Image of Mexican immigrants working with sickles to cut weeds along the side of a road outside of Chicago in 1917

Today's immigrants differ from those of the past in several key ways

This post is in collaboration with The John W. Kluge Center at the Library of Congress, which brings together scholars and researchers from around the world to use the Library’s rich collections. The article below was originally published on the Kluge Center blog with the title The History of Mexican Immigration to the U.S. in the Early 20th Century.

As a Kluge Fellow at the Library of Congress, historian Julia Young is currently researching a new book on Mexican immigration to the U.S. during the 1920s. She sat down with Jason Steinhauer to discuss the history of this migration and the similarities and differences to immigration today.

Hi, Julia. By way of background, could you provide an overview of the flow of immigrants from Mexico into the United States during the 19th and early 20th centuries?

For almost a half-century after the annexation of Texas in 1845, the flow was barely a trickle. In fact, there was a significant migration in the other direction: Mexican citizens who left the newly annexed U.S. territories and resettled in Mexican territory.

Beginning around the 1890s, new industries in the U.S. Southwest—especially mining and agriculture—attracted Mexican migrant laborers. The Mexican Revolution (1910-1920) then increased the flow: war refugees and political exiles fled to the United States to escape the violence. Mexicans also left rural areas in search of stability and employment. As a result, Mexican migration to the United States rose sharply. The number of legal migrants grew from around 20,000 migrants per year during the 1910s to about 50,000–100,000 migrants per year during the 1920s.

This same period saw massive numbers of immigrants arrive in the U.S. from Asia and Eastern and Southern Europe. Were Mexican immigrants viewed similarly or differently?

There was concern among the U.S. public, as well as policymakers and the press, that “new” immigrants from Eastern and Southern Europe as well as Asia were somehow different from previous generations of Western European immigrants to the United States—and whether their supposed differences posed a threat to U.S. society and culture. The so-called science of eugenics helped drive this concern—the notion that ethnic groups had inherent qualities (of intelligence, physical fitness, or a propensity towards criminality) and that some ethnic groups had better qualities than others. These beliefs tied in directly to concerns about immigration and immigration policy.

However, Mexicans were sometimes said to have certain positive qualities that made them “better” labor immigrants than the other groups. They were thought to be docile, taciturn, physically strong, and able to put up with unhealthy and demanding working conditions. Perhaps more importantly, they were perceived as temporary migrants, who were far more likely to return to Mexico than to settle permanently in the United States.

Does this explain why Mexico was exempted from the quotas in the Immigration Act of 1924?

Mexico (and in fact, the entire Western hemisphere) was exempt from the quotas in part because of the agricultural lobby: farmers in the U.S. Southwest argued that without Mexican migrants, they would be unable to find the laborers needed to sow and harvest their crops. In addition, migration from the Western Hemisphere made up less than one-third of the overall flow of migrants to the United States at the time. Finally, the perceptions of Mexicans as temporary migrants and docile laborers contributed to the fact that they were never included in the quotas.

Soon after the quotas, the Cristero War erupted in Mexico. What impact did this have on immigration?

Between 1926 and 1929, Catholic partisans took up arms against the Mexican federal government in protest against a series of laws that placed strong restrictions on the public role of the Catholic Church. In a country that was 98 percent Catholic, this provoked a furious response. Many Mexican Catholics were determined to go to war against their government until the laws were overturned.

The Cristero War had a twofold effect: first, it led to new waves of emigrants, exiles and refugees who fled the violence and economic disruption. Second, it politicized Mexican migrants in the United States around the Cristero cause. While not all Mexican migrants supported the Catholic side of the conflict, thousands did. They organized mass protests of the Mexican government from within their communities in the United States.

You’ve found evidence of a court case in Arizona that sheds light on this period. Could you tell us about it and why it’s significant to your research?

While researching my book I kept coming across mentions of a man named José Gándara, a Mexican immigrant who tried to start a Catholic revolt from the U.S.-side of the U.S.-Mexico border in 1927. He was eventually caught in Tucson, where he was subsequently put on trial. In the Library of Congress Newspaper and Periodical collections, I found two Arizona newspapers that documented the case: the Tucson Citizen and the Arizona Daily Star. Both had extensive coverage of the Gándara trial, which was quite dramatic — Gándara had plotted with an exiled Catholic bishop from Mexico, along with numerous other Mexican migrants, and he had enlisted the support of members of the local indigenous Yaqui community. The plot was uncovered by agents working for the U.S. Department of Justice.

During the trial, Gándara’s lawyers — who were prominent Catholics from El Paso — mocked the Mexican government and made eloquent arguments in his defense. In the end, though, Gándara was convicted of arms smuggling and fomenting revolution. He served some time in jail, although he was eventually able to get his sentence commuted, thanks to some powerful supporters within the U.S. Catholic hierarchy. His story was important because it demonstrated how far some Mexican immigrants were willing to go in order to fight the Mexican government during the Cristero War years.

Fascinating. And shortly after that, the Stock Market crashed and altered Mexican immigration once again.

Yes. At the onset of the Depression in 1929, entire industries dried up, and the need for immigrant labor decreased. Many Mexican migrants found themselves suddenly impoverished and tens of thousands of rural workers went back to Mexico. Hundreds of thousands of Mexicans were also deported under unofficial “repatriation” policies led by federal, municipal or city authorities.

As you listen to immigration debates in the 21st century, what strikes you as being similar and what strikes you as being different from debates in the early 20th century?

I’m often struck by the similarities. Some of the rhetoric and debate about immigration, particularly immigration from Mexico and Latin America, echoes that of the 1920s. It’s not uncommon to hear people describe current migrants as “too different” from the majority culture, as being unable to assimilate or acculturate.

At the same time, immigration today has features that are historically unprecedented, and we shouldn’t make too many direct analogies. For example, immigration is much more diverse today. Migrants from Latin America during the early twentieth century came almost exclusively from Mexico, Puerto Rico, and (to a lesser extent) Cuba. Today, immigrants come from every country in Latin America, and even migration from Mexico has diversified: people come not only from the historical sending states in the Mexican heartland, but also from Mexico’s gulf coast, from the southern states, and from other areas that sent few migrants before the 1980s and 1990s. That means that Mexicans, and Latin Americans more broadly, are creating truly new communities in the United States – communities based around a pan-Latin American identity, as opposed to a regional homeland identity. I think that will be one of the most fascinating areas of research for future historians.

Julia Young is an Assistant Professor of History at The Catholic University of America. Her book “Mexican Exodus: Emigrants, Exiles, and Refugees of the Cristero War” will be published this fall.

TIME Congress

House Democrats Save DHS From Shutdown, Republicans From Themselves

With just hours to go before a midnight deadline, Congress passed a one-week extension to fund the Department of Homeland Security and prevent sending 30,000 government employees home on furlough.

The vote ended a tumultuous day in the House as Republican Speaker John Boehner and his aides lost control of their right flank, failing to deliver a three-week funding measure for the department and relying instead on Democrats to pass the one-week measure to avoid a DHS shutdown.

Boehner had hoped the three-week extension would buy his conference time to figure out how to protest immigration measures put forward by President Obama last year, without shutting down DHS. But his fellow Republicans turned on the bill and it failed by a handful of votes late in the afternoon.

The Senate, led by newly elected Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, then calmly passed a one-week extension of funding for the department and sent that bill back across the Capitol to the House. After House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi spoke with Obama, House Democrats opted to vote with Boehner and the Republican leadership rather than allow funding for the department to fail.

The one-week extension in funding for DHS meant that McConnell could technically uphold his promise that there would be no government shutdowns under his leadership. But House conservatives effectively ended McConnell’s other major promise as leader: that the party would no longer be “scary.”

On the Senate side of the Capitol, the House disarray brought scorn from Democrats and Republicans alike. “Hopefully we’re gonna end the attaching of bullshit to essential items of the government,” Illinois GOP Sen. Mark Kirk, who’s up for reelection in 2016, told TPM. “In the long-run, if you are blessed with the majority, you’re blessed with the power to govern. If you’re gonna govern, you have to act responsibly.”

The DHS fight originated in November, when Obama announced he would unilaterally, temporarily defer deportations for up to five million immigrants who came to the country illegally. While Republicans in Congress were furious at what they called the “unconstitutional” action, they were faced with few good options to effectively negate Obama’s executive actions.

Their best option emerged last week, when a federal judge in Texas ordered Obama to stop his action through an injunction. Still, some of the top legal experts in the country say the president’s actions are lawful. Some Republicans applauded the three-week plan put forward by Boehner Thursday night, saying that it gave time to highlight the ruling.

“America should have an opportunity to understand why we object to the president’s action [and] why a federal judge found that the president didn’t have the authority,” said California GOP Rep. Darrell Issa. “So the Speaker has offered a very reasoned way to create space in which to have that debate with the Senate.”

Other Republicans believe that the party should have just passed what the Democrats wanted, a so-called “clean” bill that would not have added immigration riders. “We’ve got him into an arena that is honestly better than the Capitol,” says Oklahoma GOP Rep. Tom Cole. “We can’t achieve a complete victory in Congress. We don’t have the Senate. The President does have a veto. But in the courts we actually could achieve it. … I actually would argue this is actually a little bit of a sideshow,” he added. “I think the decisive arena is the court.”

The backlash among conservatives caught Boehner and his aides by surprise. Republican Rep. Walter Jones reached into his pocket for a copy of the Constitution when asked Thursday night why he wouldn’t support the plan. “How can I support money going to a president who violated the Constitution,” he said. “We cave in all the time up here,” he added, referring to previous spending fights. In a closed-door meeting, Jones noted “strong feelings” on both sides of the conference. On one side he said were “those of us who feel so passionately about the Constitution.” On the other, he said, were “those from other parts of the United States that are more concerned about the terrorist attacks.”

The passage of the one-week bill represented the second time since December that Congress has punted on DHS funding and left Republicans with the question of how they can viably protest the president’s immigration actions without shutting down the agency.

That’s a challenge Boehner will now face in just one week — two weeks earlier than he had hoped.

TIME White House

Obama Tries to Stave Off Deportation Woes at Town Hall

President Barack Obama answers a question from the audience during an immigration town hall meeting and Telemundo interview at Florida International University in Miami on Feb. 25, 2015.
Jim Watson—AFP/Getty Images President Barack Obama answers a question from the audience during an immigration town hall meeting and Telemundo interview at Florida International University in Miami on Feb. 25, 2015.

He called out Congress for stalled immigration policy but also shifted some of the blame to Americans who don’t vote

President Barack Obama did his best before an audience at Florida International University in Miami on Wednesday to reassure that his administration would be “as aggressive as we can” in the legal fight over his executive actions that would have given nearly 5 million undocumented immigrants temporary relief from deportation.

Speaking to nearly 300 people, Obama used the platform as an opportunity to call out Congress for stalling on comprehensive reform that would offer a more permanent solution.

“Until we pass a law through Congress, the executive actions we’ve taken are not going to be permanent; they are temporary,” Obama said Wednesday, at a town hall hosted by Telemundo and MSNBC anchor José Díaz-Balart that aired in the evening. “Not only are we going to have to win this legal fight, but ultimately we’re still going to pass a law through Congress.”

But the audience seemed most concerned with what’s really at stake for immigrant families amid the squabble that’s put his executive actions in jeopardy. And Obama’s answers on that were less encouraging. In the wake of a Texas judge’s decision to temporarily block the executive order—which the administration appealed on Monday—Obama and Secretary of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson have said that the judge’s order does not impact the administration’s ability to prioritize criminals and others who pose threats to national security for deportation.

Obama said Wednesday, however, that although his administration will focus on “criminals” and “potential felons,” there is no guarantee that everyone at the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency will have gotten the memo.

“There are going to be some jurisdictions and there may be individual ICE official or Border Control agent not paying attention to our new directives,” he acknowledged. “But they’re going to be answerable to the head of Homeland Security because he’s been very clear about what our priorities will be.”

There are reports that some ICE agents are already using the Texas’s judge’s order as a signal they don’t have to follow enforcement priorities. In fact, the New Orleans Workers’ Center for Racial Justice reports, one woman who has actively spoken out against the lawsuit against Obama’s executive action was subjected to wearing an ankle monitor at her last check-in.

The President also shifted some of the blame for stalled immigration policy to Americans who don’t vote.

“I’m willing to bet that there are young people who have family members who are at risk in the broke immigration system who still didn’t vote,” he said. “If we here in America voted at 60-to-70% it would transform our politics. We would have already passed comprehensive immigration reform.”

Wednesday’s town hall came amid the showdown in Congress over whether to use a bill aimed at funding the Department of Homeland Security as an opportunity to block Obama’s immigration action. If funding does not pass this week, the department could shut down. On that, Obama reiterated that Congress should pass a clean bill and challenge the action another way.

“In the short term if Mr. McConnell, the leader of the Senate, and the Speaker of the House, John Boehner, want to have [a] vote over whether what I’m doing is legal or not they can have that vote,” Obama said, adding that he would “veto that vote, because I’m absolutely confident that what we’re doing is the right thing to do.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has signaled he intends to do just that.

TIME Immigration

Dependent Spouses of Highly Skilled Immigrant Workers to Get Work Permits

The immigration reform will take effect at the end of May

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security announced a major immigration reform on Tuesday, allowing spouses of individuals on the H-1B visa (known as H-4 dependent spouses) to apply for work permits.

The new rules were announced by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services director Leon Rodriguez and will take effect on May 26 this year, according to a government release.

“Allowing the spouses of these visa holders to legally work in the United States makes perfect sense,” Rodriguez said, adding that the move would incentivize highly skilled workers and their families to stay in the country long enough to acquire green cards.

The reforms, announced as part of President Barack Obama’s executive actions on immigration, were met with relief in countries like India, which sends a large number of workers into the U.S. tech industry while their spouses are unable to legally work.

“I miss my job, I miss my financial independence,” said software engineer Swapnil Gupta, who moved to the U.S. in 2011 with her husband, according to Reuters.

“I’m looking forward to getting back to what I love doing,” she added, calling the new regulations a “great relief.”

Read next: Why Congress Is Feuding With Obama Over the Homeland Security Budget

Listen to the most important stories of the day.

TIME Congress

Why Congress Is Feuding With Obama Over the Homeland Security Budget

Jeh Johnson Holds News Conference On DHS Appropriations Bill
Alex Wong—Getty Images U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson pauses during a news conference February 23, 2015 in Washington, DC.

President Barack Obama warned a gathering of state governors on Monday that the Department of Homeland Security would furlough tens of thousands of employees nationwide if Congress failed to replenish the agency’s funds by Friday.

“We can’t afford to play politics with our national security,” Obama said during a winter meeting of the National Governors Association.

But the political fight over Homeland Security funding shows no signs of letting up due to the hot-button politics of immigration. That was made clear Monday evening when a procedural vote that needs at least 60 senators to avoid the threat of a filibuster fell too short, with just 47 in support and 46 against. Here’s a refresher on how lawmakers got to this point:

Where’s the spending bill?

A bill to fund the Department of Homeland Security passed the House last month, with one essential caveat: None of the money could be used to implement Obama’s executive order to defer deportations of some 5 million undocumented immigrants. Imposed by House Republicans, that restriction is a non-starter for Senate Democrats, who have blocked the bill.

What happens if the agency doesn’t receive funding by Friday?

Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said the department would run out of funds by Friday, forcing it to furlough upwards of 30,000 DHS employees. Employees deemed essential to national security, who make up roughly 80 percent of the workforce, will continue to work without paychecks.

Are there any signs of compromise on the horizon?

Several prominent Republicans, including Sens. John McCain and Lindsay Graham, have broken rank in recent days, urging their counterparts to fund the agency without restraints and let the immigration fight play out in the courtroom. Last week, a Texas judge temporarily suspended Obama’s executive orders and ruled that states could challenge the administration’s immigration policy in court.

McCain hailed the decision as an “exit sign” for lawmakers, though lawmakers have yet to steer toward this off ramp in significant number. They may choose to punt on the issue instead, releasing a temporary spurt of funding for Homeland Security while girding for another round of debate.

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