The longest government shutdown (35 days) in U.S. history ended on Friday, January 25, 2019, when Trump agreed to reopen government. Almost a million American citizens employed by the federal government were working without a paycheck because the President of the United States said he would shut down the government and declare this country a national emergency unless he got money from congress to build a wall across the Mexican border.
During the shutdown, most of the 800,000 plus federal employees were struggling to keep food on the table and a roof over their heads. Many of the departments affected by the federal shutdown employ people of color. From Agriculture to Homeland Security, the Justice Department, Transportation, Commerce, and HUD, minorities make up more than 40% of the federal departments that were closed. These are the same departments charged with keeping this country safe.
The misguided message being conveyed from President Trump, is a wall is needed to keep this country safe from immigrants and a wall in and of itself, will bring security to our borders. The department of homeland security reports there are cheaper ways to secure the border using technology and increased personnel. So, what is really driving Trump to put this country in a “national emergency” he manufactured for a wall that does not guarantee border security, a wall that will cost upwards of $50 billion to maintain after it’s complete and for a wall that he made a campaign promise Mexico would build. There are other facts readers need to know regardless of political affiliation.
FACT: Democrats voted for border control in 2006
Under George W. Bush presidency, Democrats approved “The Secure Fence Act of 2006” a step towards controlling the US borders and reforming immigration. The Act authorized and funded 700 miles of fence and barriers along the US/Mexican border. The Secretary of Homeland Security was the department authorized to oversee all operation of the Act. Obama, Clinton, and Schumer were some of the notable Senators that voted for border control.
FACT: 700 miles of wall installed along the border
The Department of Homeland Security reported approximately 649 miles of fencing was erected along Mexico borders by 2011. In 2015, another 31 miles of fencing was completed along the Mexican border bringing in 700 miles of fencing and walls from California to Texas.
FACT: Building a wall will cost more than 5.6 billion dollars
Originally Congress appropriated 1.4 billion dollars for the fence in 2006. The Government Accountability Office report show from 2007 through 2015, $2.3 billion was spent deploying border fencing. GAO estimates the entire cost to build and maintain a fence is will cost more than $50 billion dollars over 25 years.
FACT: The Republicans didn’t want the wall
Republicans had full control over the house and the senate in 2012 and in 2017. They had many opportunities to pass or change legislation to fund a wall for border security. Shortly after taking office, on January 25, 2017, Trump issued Executive Order 13767 to build a wall. 1.6 billion dollars was in the 2017 budget for new border technology, increased personnel, and a replacement fence. Congress opted not to increase additional funding for border security.
In the meantime, members of congress and the President really believe that if they cut programs or eliminate some altogether, Trump will have his $5.6 billion dollars.
As we enter Black History month, I’m reminded that it was poor black people that brought the transportation system to a halt in Montgomery Alabama. In 1955 African Americans fought for civil rights and to end segregation in Montgomery. Back then it was routine for white bus drivers to force African Americans to give up their seats to white passengers even in segregated areas of the bus. When Rosa Parks was jailed for not giving up her seat to a white man, African Americans had enough and boycotted the City’s public transportation. They stopped riding the bus for over a year. They walked or carpooled it. Without the ridership and revenue of African Americans the bus company went broke. As the President threatens another government closure if he does not get money for his wall, maybe, just maybe it will be transportation that keep the federal government open.