A government shutdown over immigrations
For the first time since late 2013, the United States experienced a government shut down.
The shutdown comes amidst heated discussion over immigration policy, with Democrats especially concerned with President Trump’s plans to deport several hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants who are currently protected by DACA. While the government may be up and running with a make shift budget, thanks to a bill by President Trump, these issues persist.
Select leaders from both parties, including President Donald Trump and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), were quick to put blame on the other side of the aisle, while others such as Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) expressed hope that the shutdown would not last as long as that which occurred during the Obama administration.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has stated that such arguments should not be a priority as said protections are not set to expire until later in the year. Democrats, meanwhile, argue that without action taken on DACA-protected immigrants in the near future, they cannot trust that the Republicans will reasonably address the issue in the future. The budget is the only leverage the Democrats can wield currently.
This time, unlike in 2013, the blame allegedly rests at the feet of the Democratic Party. According to a recent CNN poll, a majority of Americans do not believe DACA protections are worth shutting down the government. In fact, less than five years ago, Sen. Schumer stated that shutting down the government over immigration policy would be “idiocy.”
Despite this, he and the Democrats have effectively brought the government to a halt over 700,000 DACA beneficiaries. Putting effective immigration policy into action is important – a priority, even – but not more important than ensuring a number of federal agencies are able to operate. This halt in functioning may have signified the extensive lengths Democrats are willing to go too, but also the prioritization they hold of their responsibilites as a party.
Many agencies, such as the Department of Health and Human Services, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, and the Department of Veterans Affairs will see their employees furloughed in response to the shutdown.
The VA, already backlogged by over 400,000 disability claims, had stopped processing claims altogether, while many children, including many in Democrat-controlled districts, were unable to receive healthcare through a number of federal public health agencies. It is also possible, just as in 2013, that many low-wage federal workers, such as janitors and security guards, will not be compensated for lost wages resulting from the shutdown.
None of this is to say that the Democrats are not the only ones to blame. The GOP, despite holding the White House and a majority in Congress, have failed to push through any meaningful immigration reform.
There is something to be said, however, for a party that would openly stop essential federal agencies from operation in order to protect fewer than a million illegal immigrants, going against public opinion and discontinuing aid from children and veterans in the process. The Democrats certainly had every right to complain in 2013 when Republicans brought the government to a standstill, but they have willingly shunned their constituents this time around in favor of moral grandstanding and several hundred thousand undocumented immigrants.
Democrats are right: deporting 700,000 immigrants will do nothing to stop our country’s immigration problem, but halting federal operations and hurting our nation’s vulnerable in the meantime served just as little purpose.
In the face of a long battle, some in office remain determined to avoid an extended shutdown. Senator Doug Jones (D-AL), recently sworn in to replace Jeff Sessions in the Senate, was one of five Democrats to vote with Republicans on a proposed spending bill to get the government running again. Jones defended his vote by citing the renewal of the Children’s Health Insurance Program, which covers roughly 150,000 children in Alabama alone and over 9 million nationwide.
The next few days will be indicative of which party will face a wake-up call in November.
President Trump has signed a bill, allocating funds to reopen the government until February 8th. This provides a short extension for both parties to arrive at a compromise over the series of issues that led to the shut down in the first place.
The coming weeks will be telling, not only for Democrats, but for Republicans who have faced criticism over the past year for their inability to govern and pass legislation effectively.
Alex Ponce de Leon is a Mathematics Sophomore and can be reached at [email protected]