December 22, 2018 while the world readied itself for the holidays, a standoff over Trump’s $5.6 billion border-wall demand led to a partial government shutdown that has lasted into 2019. The shutdown has become the longest of its kind in history. A spectrum of industries and workers are affected by this ongoing shutdown. 800,000 federal workers have been without pay. 25% of the US federal government has no funding. Nine departments’ operations have ceased, including Homeland Security, Justice, Housing, Agriculture, Commerce, Interior, and the Treasury. National Parks have been closed. Major components of the U.S. immigration system, along with many government websites, are offline, out of order or under strain, the services “unavailable due to a lapse in government appropriations.” When federal agencies are dealing with migrant families crossing the border and crowding U.S. courts, the closure of the immigration authorities has not only left workers unpaid, but frustrated many tourists and visitors.
In the front line, U.S. Border Patrol agents, Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers and other enforcement personnel at the Department of Homeland Security are working with merely an assurance they will be paid later; many of them are starting to call in sick. Still, more than 2,000 migrants per day on average add to their workload, according to the latest Customs and Border Protection statistics. With nowhere to detain these migrants, the government has been releasing hundreds onto the streets in El Paso, Yuma, Ariz., and other border cities.
Consequences of the government shutdown also impact the private sector. In addition to the approximately 800,000 federal workers who are either furloughed or working without pay, low-income employees such as cafeteria and custodial workers are out of work. Private companies with federal contracts are facing uncertainty. Contractors’ work, such as that of outsourced security companies, suppliers and researchers, is disrupted. Furthermore, IRS’ closure means tax returns and W-2 statements will be put on hold -- which in turn, affects consumer spending.
After meeting top Democrats Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer on January 4, 2019, Trump stated he could continue the shutdown for months or even years to force funding of the US-Mexico border wall. He could also declare a national emergency to build his promised wall bypassing congressional approval.
Meanwhile, a search for a way out of the impasse was underway. Could resurrection of the old Democratic notion of pairing wall funding with DACA protections for the Dreamers put an end to the shutdown? Could Senator Lamar Alexander’s idea of giving Trump an additional $1 billion to fortify ports of entry rather than a border wall be the solution? The standstill remains, with no end in sight.