Washington, DC: Succumbing to political pressure, President Donald Trump has backed a deal to temporarily end the record-breaking government shutdown in America’s history despite getting no funding for his controversial plan to build a wall along the US-Mexico border.
The deal resolved the crippling 35-day closure but not the fight over his proposed border wall.
Trump has been demanding $ 5.7 billion of funding to build the wall, but the Democrats have refused. Trump previously vowed to reject any deal unless it included funding for his signature campaign pledge.
The deal reached on Friday funds the government for three weeks, until 15 February, while lawmakers try to reach a wider deal on immigration. Both the House and Senate passed the plan by voice vote on Friday.
The White House later confirmed Trump had signed it into law.
Announcing the pact in a speech from the Rose Garden, Trump said he would start negotiations between the House and Senate over a full-year bill funding the Homeland Security Department, which oversees the border.
“After 36 days of spirited debate and dialogue, I have seen and heard from enough Democrats and Republicans that they are willing to put partisanship aside, I think,” Trump said.
Pressure mounted on Trump as the shutdown was threatening the economy and left 800,000 federal workers missing a second paycheque on Friday. The Republican-led US Senate rejected two shutdown-ending bills on Thursday.
Democrats in the House had demanded re-opening of the government before any negotiations with Trump and his Republican allies in Congress on border security.
Trump said federal workers, whom he called “incredible patriots”, would receive full back-pay.
The reopening also eases pressures on the airline industry, which was grappling with staffing shortfalls in airport security and air-traffic control. It could speed tax refunds from the Internal Revenue Service, and restart other government functions related to small business loans, initial public offerings and infrastructure projects, among others.
Mexico-United States wall or barrier
The Mexico-United States barrier (barrera México–Estados Unidos in Spanish), colloquially called the Border Wall, is a series of vertical barriers along the Mexico–United States border aimed at preventing illegal crossings from Mexico into the United States.
- The barrier is not one contiguous structure, but a discontinuous series of physical obstructions variously classified as “fences” or “walls”.
Between the physical barriers, security is provided by a “virtual fence” of sensors, cameras, and other surveillance equipment used to dispatch United States Border Patrol agents to suspected migrant crossings.
- As of January 2009, U.S. Customs and Border Protection reported that it had more than 580 miles (930 km) of barriers in place.
The total length of the continental border is 1,954 miles (3,145 km).
Why the ‘wall’ is controversial
Various reasons have made the issue controversial.
- Tribal lands of three indigenous nations would be divided by a proposed border fence.
- In the spring of 2007 more than 25 landowners, including a corporation and a school district, from Hidalgo and Starr County in Texas refused border fence surveys, which would determine what land was eligible for building on, as an act of protest.
- On 1 August 2018, the chief of the Border Patrol’s Rio Grande Valley sector indicated that although Starr County was his first priority for a wall, Hidalgo County’s Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge had been selected instead for initial construction because its land was owned by the government.
- The proposed border wall has been described as a “death sentence” for the American National Butterfly Center, a privately operated outdoor butterfly conservatory that maintains a significant amount of land in Mexico. Filmmaker Krista Schlyer, part of an all-woman team creating a documentary film about the butterflies and the border wall, Ay Mariposa, estimates that construction would put 70% of the habitat that is preserved on the Mexican side of the border.
- In 2006, the Mexican government vigorously condemned the Secure Fence Act of 2006. Mexico has also urged the U.S. to alter its plans for expanded fences along their shared border, saying that it would damage the environment and harm wildlife.
- Between 1994 and 2007, there were around 5,000 migrant deaths along the Mexico–United States border, according to a document created by the Human Rights National Commission of Mexico, also signed by the American Civil Liberties Union. Between 43 and 61 people died trying to cross the Sonoran Desert from October 2003 to May 2004; three times that of the same period the previous year. In October 2004 the Border Patrol announced that 325 people had died crossing the entire border during the previous 12 months. Between 1998 and 2004, 1,954 persons are officially reported to have died along the Mexico-U.S. border. Since 2004, the bodies of 1,086 migrants have been recovered in the southern Arizona desert.
- In April 2008, the Department of Homeland Security announced plans to waive more than 30 environmental and cultural laws to speed construction of the barrier. Despite claims from then-Homeland Security Chief Michael Chertoff that the department would minimize the construction’s impact on the environment, critics in Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas asserted that the fence endangered species and fragile ecosystems along the Rio Grande. Environmentalists expressed concern about butterfly migration corridors and the future of species of local wildcats, the ocelot, the jaguarundi, and the jaguar.
For how long will the deal avert the next crisis
Now, the deal, political analysts, said appeared to be a defeat for Trump as he could not get any funding to construct the border wall, which the president says is essential to prevent the flow of illegal immigrants into the US.
Asserting that deal is not a concession that he gave to the Democrats, Trump warned of another shutdown or declaring a national emergency to build the wall, in the absence of Congressional funding for it. “Let me be very clear: We really have no choice but to build a powerful wall or steel barrier. If we don’t get a fair deal from Congress, the government will either shut down on February 15, again, or I will use the powers afforded to me under the laws and the Constitution of the United States to address this emergency. We will have great security,” Trump said.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, however, expressed happiness over the deal. “Disagreement in policy should never be a reason to shut down the government, really shouldn’t. Especially, again, for a period of time that has an impact on the paychecks. And I’m sad it’s taken this long. I’m glad that we’ve come to a conclusion today as to how we go forward in the next three weeks,” she said.
Trump’s State of the Union address, scheduled for Tuesday, has been delayed due to the shutdown.
Responding to a question, Pelosi said the new dates of the State of the Union Address has not been planned as of now.
“What I said to the President is, when the government is open, we will discuss a mutually agreeable date and I’ll look forward to doing that and welcoming the President to the House of Representatives for the State of the Union when we agree on that mutual date,” she said.
Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard said that the temporary opening will create the opportunity for Democrats and Republicans to come together to address funding levels and authorities for border security and immigration concerns.
“We cannot allow our government and federal employees to suffer and be held hostage because of partisan politics or policy disagreements, she said.