Members of Congress should defy Washington D.C.'s reputation for dysfunction by ensuring they keep the government open.
No one wins when the federal government shuts down, least of all the American people.
Yet President Donald Trump proclaimed this week he would be “proud to shut down the government,” with a braggadocio that shows callous disregard for federal workers and the public they serve.
Trump’s reason for pushing the nation toward a partial government shutdown is border security. He wants federal spending bills to include $5 billion toward his largely symbolic border wall (the one he has long promised Mexico would pay for).
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But should a partial shutdown occur Dec. 22, the employees in charge of securing our borders are among those who would suffer most.
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According to a breakdown from Democratic staff of the Senate Appropriations Committee, a shutdown would deeply affect the Department of Homeland Security. It would force 54,000 Customs and Border Protection agents and customs officers to work without pay, as well as 41,000 federal law enforcement agents.
Additionally, more than 380,000 federal employees would simply be sent home. These involuntary furloughs would close federal offices that serve farmers, small businesses, and prospective homeowners, while harming delivery of food and other essential items to food banks in the high-demand days leading up to Christmas.
These would be terrible gifts for the president to inflict on the American people.
What’s more, a standoff over the president’s wall moves the country no closer to the comprehensive immigration reform it so desperately needs.
Partial funding of a border wall will do nothing to speed up processing of asylum-seekers at the border. Nor will it ease the backlog of cases in immigration court.
Despite Trump’s claims to the contrary, a nonpartisan Congressional Research Service analysis found that a border fence alone did not significantly deter illegal crossings in San Diego. A major reduction in unauthorized crossings was instead achieved mainly by improving staffing and technological resources there.
Those are exactly the kinds of effective border security measures that Democrats and Republicans say they’re willing to support. And they come with a much smaller price tag.
Members of Congress should show they that they can rise above Washington, D.C.’s, legendary dysfunction this holiday season. They must pass spending measures to keep the government open. If Trump vetoes, the resulting mess will be on him.
Lawmakers should then turn their attention to real immigration reform, rather than a costly barrier that will fail to address our greatest failings at the border.
That would be something to make Americans truly proud.