ECLECTIC RANT:U.S Government Shut Down — Dreamers Left Dangling

Ralph E. Stone
Sunday January 21, 2018 - 07:59:00 PM

At 11:59:59 on Friday, January 19, 2018, the U.S. government funding went dry and the government shut down. Today, Saturday, January 20, both the House and Senate are caucusing to try pass a continuing resolution to "kick the can down the road" until February or pass legislation to help the "Dreamers." The prospects for both are uncertain.  

This is the second government shutdown in five years. From October 1, to October 17, 2013, the government shut down and curtailed most routine operations. Regular government operations resumed October 17 after an interim appropriations bill was signed into law. During the shut down, approximately 800,000 federal employees were indefinitely furloughed, and another 1.3 million were required to report to work without known payment dates. Only those government services deemed "excepted" under the Antideficiency Act were continued; and only those employees deemed "excepted" continued to report to work. The 16-day-long shut down of October 2013 was the third-longest government shutdown in U.S. history. The U.S. Budget Office estimated the shut down cost taxpayers $2 billion.  

As Donald Trump said of the 2013 shut down, "the problems start from the top and have to get solved from the top… The President is the leader, and he’s got to get everybody in a room and he’s got to lead." Ergo, Trump must be responsible for the latest government shut down.  

When President Trump called African countries “shitholes” (or perhaps “shithouses”) in a White House meeting, he was also criticizing a proposed immigration deal struck by a bipartisan group of US senators — the only bipartisan proposal so far that could have provided a solution for the 790,000 unauthorized immigrants facing the end of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program in time to avoid a government shutdown. The proposed framework that Senators. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Dick Durbin (D-IL) agreed to, along with Senators. Michael Bennet (D-CO), Jeff Flake (R-AZ), Cory Gardner (R-CO), and Bob Menendez (D-NJ), covers the four areas that the White House and Congressional leaders agreed to after Tuesday’s meeting: a DACA fix, a wall, restrictions on “chain migration,” and an end to the diversity visa lottery program. Trump declared the proposed DACA deal "dead." However, there were hopes that if the deal reached Trump he would sign it. The proposed deal did not pass Congress. 

As House Minority Leader Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) later remarked, "Negotiating with this White House is like negotiating with Jell-O. It's next to impossible."  

It is disingenuous of Trump to now blame the Democrats or Congress for failing to pass legislation to provide legal status for the 790,000 young immigrants. The Dream Act was introduced in Congress in 2001 and has been reintroduced several times but failed to pass each time. In response, Obama in 2012, issued an Executive Order giving these young unauthorized immigrants the right to seek work permits and deportation relief through the DACA program. California has the highest number of DACA recipients.  

Given past experience, Trump knew or should have known that the Dream Act or other legislation to help the Dreamers was unlikely to pass in Congress by March 5, 2018, the deadline set by him. The blame for ending the DACA program is Trump's and Trump's alone. With a stroke of a pen, he phased out DACA. Trump promised to sign the Dream Act, if Congress passed it. But Trump changed the rules in midstream by demanding a quid pro quo -- he will sign a Dream Act or other help for Dreamers if Congress provides money for a wall and limits visas for extended family members, which Republicans call chain migration, and cancellation of the visa lottery program.  

As Trump stated after the 2013 government shut down, the buck stops at the presidency. Trump could restore DACA with a stroke of his pen. Given Trump's anti-immigrant stance that is unlikely to happen.  

Will the shut down continue until either the Democrats or the Republican blink? We will just have to wait and see in the coming days or weeks. Stay tuned.