After US President Donald Trump and Congress failed to reach an agreement on a budget for the president’s proposed wall across the border with Mexico, a deal to fund nearly a quarter of all government departments did not materialize, resulting in a partial government shutdown. Beginning on Dec. 22, 2018, the ongoing shutdown has been the longest in American history. The federal halt has been primarily focused on southern border security. President Trump has refused to reopen the government without more than five billion dollars to construct a wall at the Mexican-American border. Although the House of Representatives did pass a spending bill not including funding for a steel border barrier on Jan. 3, President Trump has refused to accept any such proposals. Additionally, Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has prevented the Senate from voting on such a bill.
“Although I do think southern border security is a concern in the United States, I don’t think it’s worth a government shutdown,” said Alex Hyun (10), MUN member. “Trump is continuing the shutdown because he wants a border wall, but I don’t see how that will prevent illegal immigrants from entering the US. Illegal immigrants in the past have entered via naval ports, airports, or even underground by tunneling under the border, all of which a wall be ineffective against.”
According to the New York Times, the shutdown has financially jeopardized nearly 800,000 federal government workers, 420,000 of whom have been working without pay and 380,000 thousand of whom have been furloughed. These temporary layoffs have been especially alarming to federal government workers, ranging from museum employees to FBI agents, who live on paycheck to paycheck. For many of these workers, the prolonged government closure has lead to the foreclosure of homes, evictions, and the inability to purchase daily necessities such as food. In light of the shutdown, many federal workers have searched for other jobs. For example, according to the Wall Street Journal, many airport security officers who have been working without pay have called in sick to pursue other jobs during the government closure. Although the government will likely compensate federal workers for missed time during the shutdown like it has done after all previous temporary closings, nearly 4.1 million government contract workers will not be as fortunate.
“From what I understand, the salaries that are usually paid to government workers are not circulating through the economy,” said James Kowalski, AP US History teacher. “There are businesses throughout Washington D.C. and the country that are losing business from government workers that would typically patronize them.”
With a newfound majority in the House of Representatives, Democrats have strongly opposed the president’s proposals for border wall spending. Democratic Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer have repeatedly refused the President’s requests for border barrier spending at White House meetings. The Trump administration has claimed that nearly 4,000 suspected terrorists were stopped at the Southern border in 2018. Trump has also asserted that nearly 300 Americans die of heroin every week, much of which comes from Mexico. Democrats have countered by claiming that evidence suggests that the number of suspected terrorists stopped at the Mexican border was likely six, not 4,000. They have also claimed that most of the heroin from Mexico enters via naval cargo shipping, which a wall would be useless against. In response to Democratic opposition, Trump has reportedly considered declaring southern border security a national emergency, which would authorize him to take funding for the border wall directly from the military.
“I think Trump will be forced to give in and end the shutdown soon,” said Aileen Kim (10), longtime MUN participant. “Democrats are unlikely to compromise over the wall given that they’ve had strong objections to it even before Trump’s inauguration. In addition, Trump has been losing public support throughout this shutdown, putting additional pressure on him to capitulate.”