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The Longest Government Shutdown in History- Explained

Megan Snow ‘20

Staff Writer

2018 was a tumultuous year for politics, ending with a government shutdown that lasted 35 days. Federal employees rang in the new year by working without pay until the government reopened on Jan. 25 2019. Although that’s great news, it’s only open temporarily until Congress makes a decision about the border wall that President Trump wants built. This leaves people with many questions about how Congress and President Trump are going to move forward.

The government shutdown was more elaborate than meets the eye. 800,000 federal employees have worked without pay and the State of the Union address was pushed to Feb. 5, when it’s normally supposed to be in January. It also created a copious amount of tension between political parties; Republicans are blaming Democrats for the shutdown, and Democrats are blaming President Trump for the shutdown. There were so many organizations and programs affected by the shutdown that were overlooked in media coverage:

  • The FDA stopped routine drug inspections and halted approval applications for new drugs.
  • FBI work was pushed back.
  • Public Health research that could largely impact our future was pushed back.
  • Airports lacked enough staff as TSA agents called out sick because they were not being paid.
  • The EPA ran out of funds to pay employees and sent 95 percent of them home until the government reopened.
  • The Nation Park Services lost over $400,000 a day in fees and suspended trash pickups and road maintenance procedures. This resulted in vandalism of Joshua Tree State Park in Southern California.
  • Over 42,000 immigration court hearings were cancelled.
  • Some federal workers lost benefits in their health insurance unless they paid their premiums in full (while not receiving paychecks).

This is just a short list of the major effects this shutdown had on employees, their families, local farmers, researchers, and public health officials. Now that the government is open, what’s next?

President Trump signed a bill to reopen the government on Jan. 25 after a failed attempt to negotiate with Congress. Trump attempted to extend the Dreamers program, an act that grants alien minors permanent residency after passing qualifications, in exchange for border wall funding. This was quickly shot down by Congress because, ironically, Trump is the one who rescinded the Dreamers Act in the first place. After negotiation did not succeed, Trump was quoted in the New York Times as saying, “If we don’t get a fair deal from Congress, the government will either shut down on Feb. 15, or I will use the powers afforded to me under the laws and Constitution of the United States to address this emergency.”

As of Friday, Feb. 15, President Trump has declared a national emergency to fund the border wall. This use of executive power is allotting Trump $8 billion for wall construction, which includes the $1.375 billion that was passed by Congress on Feb 14. Thankfully, disaster relief funding will not be used for the border wall, which was a fear amongst members of Congress.

President Trump considers this a victory as he finally is able to start construction of his border wall, but are the immigration issues really issues we need to be worried about? According to NPR.org, illegal border crossings were lower in 2018 than in 2014 and 2016. Illegal immigration isn’t just a hop across the border, it’s overstaying visas that were granted based upon their purpose of being in the United States, about two thirds of illegal immigrants to be exact.

Immigration is a tough area of politics to navigate, especially because there are so many terms and unknown information about immigration. It’s important to stay informed and do your own research if you don’t understand a concept, as well as fact check the information being given to you, because politics are becoming more and more divisive, which makes it incredibly difficult to solve any ongoing issue in the United States.