Contribution of Aaron Reichlin-Melnick
Part of the federal government is closed since December 22, 2019, after President Trump declared his intent to veto any funding bill that didn’t contain five billion dollars for building his wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Over two weeks later, much of the government remains on a shutdown, with Republican Senate leadership currently refusing to move forward any bill that Trump won’t sign. As both sides dig further, the prospects of the shutdown ending any time soon seem distant.
The partial government shutdown, which affects multiple government agencies including the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the Department of Justice (DOJ), the State Department, and the Treasury Department, is largely seen as the president’s last opportunity to secure funding for his promised border wall now that Democrats have retaken the House of Representatives.
Before the shutdown began, the Senate passed a bipartisan proposal to keep the government open without any additional funding for the wall. This plan was scuttled after the president unexpectedly opposed it at the last moment following criticism from immigration hardliners such as Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter.
Because DHS, DOJ, and the State Department are affected by the shutdown, many immigration functions of those agencies have been affected:
- Many employees working along the border and at airports are considered “essential employees” required to continue working, but that means that many Customs and Border Protection and Transportation Security Agency employees are going without pay.
- Although U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services is mostly fee-funded and immune to the shutdown, its federally funded “E-Verify” program, which allows employers to determine if a new employee is eligible to work, has been shut down.
- The DOJ has shuttered all non-detained immigration courts, a decision which will add thousands of cases to a backlog already at 810,000 cases. While the non-detained courts remain shuttered, immigration judges can neither grant relief from removal nor issue any orders of deportation, putting people in limbo.
- Because the State Department’s visa and passport services are largely fee-funded, they are currently unaffected by the shutdown. However, should the shutdown last for weeks, the State Department could start cutting those servicesas funds run dry.
Since the shutdown began, the president has met with Congressional leaders several times but those discussions have yielded no progress. Negotiations broke down even further on Friday.
Amid swirling rumors about the possibility of reopening negotiations to trade border wall funding for protections for Dreamers, the White House sent a letter to Congress. The letter repeated statements made by DHS Secretary Nielsen earlier in the week that called for a wall, increased use of family detention, and the elimination of protections for unaccompanied children. However, deterrence is not a substitute for reforms.
As we approach week three of the shutdown, both sides continue to blame the other for the ongoing shutdown. At an impromptu press conference on Friday, the president confirmed reports that he told Democratic leaders he would keep the government shut down for “months or even years” if they did not agree to his demands. However, new House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy suggested that a broader immigration compromise might be possible.
The shutdown is affecting agencies across the U.S., but the three hit the hardest are Homeland Security, the Department of Justice, and the Department of Agriculture. Some EPA workers in Kansas said they fear projects that are put on hold too long could begin to endanger the public’s health.
Tonight, January 8, 2018, President Trump will make his case in his first speech from the Oval Office at 21:00EST (0200 GMT Wednesday),
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The partial government shutdown, which began on 22 December, has affected 25% of the government. Some 800,000 federal employees have been temporarily laid off – or forced to work without pay.
While its repercussions ripple across the country, Mr Trump has also threatened to bypass Congress and invoke emergency powers to build the wall along half the 2,000-mile (3,100km) border.
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a tweet that Mr Trump would use his visit to the border on Thursday to “meet with those on the front lines of the national security and humanitarian crisis”.
Curbing illegal immigration was one of the main campaign promises Mr Trump made when he ran for president.
During the campaign for the midterm elections in November, he repeatedly agitated over a caravan of Central American migrants making its way towards the US border with Mexico.
Mr Trump deployed about 5,800 troops to the border and described the migrants as an “invasion”.