A summary of the U.S. government shutdown and a perspective on Trump’s proposed deal to the House of Representatives.
If you aren’t up to date on the latest news from Washington D.C. then, well, who could blame you? It seems that ever since Donald Trump began his vie for the Presidency the torrent of news has been unrelenting. It can be a difficult and daunting task to keep up.
In the past month the U.S. government has been enduring a historically long shutdown due to an inability to come to an agreement on an appropriations bill to fund the operations of the federal government for the 2019 fiscal year. The shutdown began at midnight on December 22, 2018, and is now in its 30th day at the time of this article, making it the longest government shutdown in U.S. history.
Before the shutdown occurred, the Republican-controlled Senate unanimously passed an appropriations bill but before it could be passed by the then Republican-controlled House of Representatives, President Trump vetoed the bill and exclaimed that he would veto any bill which does not include $5.7 billion to fund a proposed border wall between the contiguous U.S. and Mexico. This border wall was one of the main topics of his presidential candidacy and a subject of much criticism recently from disgruntled GOP constituents due to the perceived lack of progress in making this promise a reality.
The border wall is a subject of great debate and criticism as many believe it to be one the most ineffective ways to prevent illegal entry into the U.S. as well as possibly costing up to $20 billion to complete. Four times that which Trump is demanding from the appropriations bill. GOP Representative Will Hurd of Texas, which shares over 800 miles of the U.S.-Mexico border, has publicly told reporters that Trump’s “border crisis” is a “myth” and that the wall is “least effective” for security.
Since the mid-term elections of 2018, the House of Representatives is now majority controlled by the Democratic Party, ending the one-party rule the Republican Party had for the previous two years. The Democrats, as well as many Republicans, are firmly rejecting adding Trump’s $5.7 billion into the appropriations bill, even if one is passed by the Senate, and thus negotiations have reached an impasse. Many view the events of the past month not as Republicans vs. Democrats but as Trump vs. the U.S. government. Trump is, at least to the general public, proverbially holding the government hostage for a $5.7 billion ransom which no one is willing to pay. What’s more, the shutdown has affected 800,000 U.S. citizens who are now no longer being paid (and some 50,000 are still having to go to work), driving many would-be working families to use food banks and pawning precious possessions simply to eat and pay bills. To make matters even worse, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has blocked the Senate from considering any appropriations bill that President Trump has not already explicitly agreed upon.
President Trump is no stranger to controversy, on the contrary he appears to deliberately incite it. Almost daily. Yesterday was no exception. On Saturday, January 19, Trump offered a deal to the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives which included an on-going controversy of its own: the Dreamers.
Dreamers are individuals in the U.S. who entered illegally with their parents when they were minors. The DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) policy protected these individuals from deportation in lieu of remaining in the U.S. and being able to work. However, DACA does not provide a path to U.S. citizenship. Since late 2017, Trump has been attempting to rescind the policy, blocked only by federal judges. Thus, leaving around 700,000 Dreamers in a state of limbo and no more applications are being processed.
Part of Trump’s proposed deal would include a three year extended protection for the 700,000 Dreamers in the U.S. and also the same amount of protection time for some 300,000 TPS (Temporary Protection Status) holders, who are individuals who have arrived from countries affected by war or disasters and who are allowed to live and work in the U.S. It is not surprising that this proposed deal left a sour taste in the public’s mouth. The House Speaker, Nancy Pelosi, has already come out and deemed the deal a “non-starter”.
It is not difficult to see how many in the public consider Trump’s deal as nothing but exploitation of the Dreamers and TPS holders and their tentative status. These are individuals who, if deported, would be returning to countries which many cannot even remember and would be plunged into poverty, war and ruins. Trump is now not only holding the government hostage, along with the livelihoods of 800,000 U.S. citizens, but also the future and freedoms of one million human beings. The ransom is set to $5.7 billion.
There is also another perspective on the Dreamers and TPS holders: renting humans. Trump is essentially saying that if the Senate and House agree to the funding — something neither wish to legislate and therefore would be a perversion of democracy anyway — Trump will exchange three years of protection for the 700,000 Dreamers and 300,000 TPS holders and thus allowing them to remain in the U.S. Which sort of sounds a lot like Trump is selling these individuals back to the U.S. for $5.7 billion. Although, as the protection is only guaranteed for three years, it is more akin to renting. Technically.
Is Trump’s new bargaining strategy really to rent the freedoms of one million human beings for his border wall funding? The implications of using human beings as bargaining chips are tremendously dark and may, in some ways, be perceived as validating human exploitation and possibly even slavery. Somehow Donald Trump has just sunk to yet another new low. He has previously been accused of repeatedly validating white supremacy in the United States and exacerbating racial tensions.
There is another strategy at play here as well. If the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives do manage to pass a bill which does not include the wall funds demanded by Trump, and therefore also does not secure the three year protection extension for the Dreamers and TPS holders, Trump will be able to flip the DACA narrative if any Dreamers or TPS holders are indeed deported. It’s easy to predict Trump making statements that their deportation could have been prevented if only the Democrats had played ball. Shirking his responsibility and laying the blame securely on his opponents in the run up to re-election in 2020.
The Democratic Party are now left between a rock and a hard place: to continue their rejection of Trump’s border funding — which if such a bill was allowed to come to vote would almost certainly pass both the Senate and the House — and be accused of not preventing any future deportation of Dreamers and TPS holders, and financial issues of the U.S. citizens currently going unpaid; or give in to Trump’s demands and release his hostages, thereby perverting the democratic process by passing legislation only the vast minority seem to want.
It seems that, once again, we are reminded of how President Trump views the lives of both U.S. and non-U.S. citizens: commodities to be exploited for political gain. From the 800,000 U.S. citizens who are still going unpaid and struggling to live, to the 700,000 Dreamers and 300,000 TPS holders. Also, how Trump handles negotiations — ruthlessly and without true compromise. It’s Trump’s way or it’s no way. Evident by this historically long government shutdown which, for the moment, has no end in sight.