The government shutdown, which began December 22nd 2018, persists into its 19th day as President Trump continues to rebuff any spending bill that does not allocate $5.7 billion to fund a wall on the border of Mexico and the United States. Congressional leaders are expected to return to the White House today to resume negotiations, though an immediate resolution seems unlikely.
Last night, President Trump addressed the nation in the Oval Office, doubling down on his demand for border wall funding without offering any suggestion for compromise or showing any degree of empathy for the federal workers going without pay. In an immediate response delivered by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, Democrats made clear that their top priority is ending the shut down without sacrificing billions of dollars to an unnecessary wall. Pelosi stated, “The fact is, President Trump has chosen to hold hostage critical services for the health, safety and well-being of the American people and withhold the paychecks of 800,000 innocent workers across the nation–many of them veterans.”
Earlier in the week, the President had threatened to declare a national emergency in order to siphon off funding for the wall, though “the U.S. Constitution doesn’t contain any national emergency provision that would allow the president to spend money for purposes not allocated by Congress. And it’s clearer than clear that Congress not only hasn’t authorized money for a wall along the border with Mexico but also doesn’t intend to do so.”
Democrats are holding firm that the wall is nothing more than racist symbol that perpetuates the President’s unfounded narrative that immigrants along the southern border are overwhelming comprised of drug dealers and terrorists. In reality, most drug trafficking is not carried over the border illegally, but rather smuggled through shipping ports and trucks crossing through designated check points. Admiral Paul Zukunft, a commandant of the Coast Guard, said, “I think we’d be shortsighted to think that if we build a wall that will end all the drivers for illegal migration.” The Coast Guard seized more than 201 tons of cocaine in 2016, and 223 tons of cocaine in 2017.
The government shutdown is greatly affecting the economy and the lives of many. Government workers deemed essential are required to work without pay. A secret service agent Donald Mihalek stated, “They are asking you to put your life on the line and not paying you — it’s ridiculous.”
Additionally, organizations that provide aid to low income families such as Food Stamps and The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children are experiencing cutbacks. In addition, “more than $140 billion in tax refunds are at risk of being frozen or delayed if the government shutdown stretches into February.” Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez from New York tweeted on December 21, 2018, “For the wall’s $5.7 billion, every child in America could have access to Universal Pre-K. Yet when we propose the [same funding], we’re told Universal Education is a ‘fantasy’ & asked ‘how are you going to pay for it’. Education is an investment in society that yields returns. Walls are waste.”
Trump first stated his intent to build a wall when he announced his campaign on June 16, 2015. The President has consistently used the office to denigrate and attack immigration, such as calling Haiti and African countries “shithole countries” in early 2018 and his Executive Order that “banned foreign nationals in seven predominantly Muslim countries from visiting the country for 90 days” in early 2017.
Meanwhile, the new Democratic House majority has stated intentions to pass legislation protecting Dreamers and immigrants with Temporary Protected Status as soon as possible. Their legislation aims to stop the deportation of Dreamers and TPS immigrants, as well as provide pathways to citizenship.
Media Resources: ACLU; Huff Post 2/28/17; New York Times 1/7/19; Time 1/7/19; The Week 4/11/18; Bloomberg 1/8/19; NPR 1/9/19