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Opportunity amid US shutdown tragedy

  • 14 January 2019


The US government is in the midst of its longest shutdown ever. The phrase 'longest ever' might indicate these shutdowns occur with more frequency than they actually do. In fact, there have only ever been four where agency operations were affected or halted for more than one business day, the first only coming in the mid-90s under the Clinton administration.

The shutdowns ought to be rare because they can be catastrophic in the lives of hundreds of thousands of Americans. In a country where nearly half of residents 'if faced with an unexpected expense of $400, would either not be able to cover it or would cover it by selling something or borrowing money', a shutdown where 800,000 federal workers are missing paychecks is a nightmare.

The shutdown is the result of President Donald J. Trump demanding $5.7 billion for a 'wall' to be constructed along the US-Mexico southern border. (Readers might recall that Democrats pledged nearly five times that amount in a deal to protect 'Dreamers', in February, when Republicans were in legislative majority.)

The president is demanding the wall in face of facts that stand against its necessity: most drugs enter the United States through legal ports of entry, visa overstays far outpace border crossings, and apprehensions at the southern border have reached their lowest levels since 1971.

Yet listing all of these facts is an exercise akin to explaining anatomy and nutrition to a three year old who wonders why they can't eat an entire tub of ice cream for dinner every day.

Herein lies the biggest tragedy in a government shutdown that contains multitudes: The US does have a deeply broken, inhumane immigration system to which no one (at least none of the voices with the largest megaphones) is offering real solutions. Instead, we're all debating the necessity and effectiveness of a giant wall, which leads to listening to arguments like Trump's now-notorious line about wheels being older than walls.

Contrast this to the approach the new Congress has taken with fighting the environmental degradation brought on by the Trump administration. The Green New Deal that's being proposed and debated is not simply a refutation of Trumpism, but a robust, imaginative and ambitious alternative to it.


"Democrats — and Republicans who are invested in comprehensive immigration reform — have an enormous opportunity before them."


We should be giving a bold answer to the wall, and not just a rejection of it. Every time an