By ROBERT JUMPER
ONE FEATHER EDITOR
At midnight, Saturday morning, the U.S. Congress could not come together on a federal budget which has resulted in a “shutdown” of “non-essential” government services. As of press time, it is unknown how long this shutdown will last, and therefore, the overall impact is also a question mark. But, thousands of furloughed federal employees are already sitting at home in uncertainty and thousands more are compelled to go to work without pay for the duration of the shutdown. Our front line of defense, our military men and women, are expected to do so without pay. Sure, everyone will be compensated via retroactive pay when the Congress approves funding, but I would imagine some awkward moments at the grocery checkout and some from phone calls from electronic payees.
The reason that the country is budget-less is that the Congress and Executive Office are taking stands on positions concerning international immigration, specifically and primarily, the legal status of those children who immigrated with their parents to the United States without going through the naturalization process of the country. A government policy, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), had been implemented to help address those who were brought to this country as children; to assist them in moving from illegal to legal status.
In 2017, the Executive Office rescinded the policy and Congress has been looking for alternatives for the DACA policy to continue to address the need. So now, factions within Congress and Executive Office are using the passage of the nation’s budget to bargain the fate of DACA, and the group of people that had received benefit from that policy, known as Dreamers.
While immigration and the proper treatment of those brought to the country illegally through no fault of their own are causes worth addressing, the use of holding the federal budget hostage exposes a very dangerous tendency of government leaders. The impact of a government shutdown is a hardship on federal workers, and on those who depend on the goods and services that the government provides. That’s you and me. Some services, payment of military death benefits and passport processing could be curtailed. The Smithsonian and National Zoo could close, as well as national monuments and parks. There are reports that the administrators of those facilities are trying to use existing funds to remain open.
While all of this is going on, immigrant futures and government workers livelihoods hanging in the balance, Congress and the Executive Office continue to get paid. That’s right. The law protects the salaries and benefits of Congress from being affected by a government shutdown. I wonder if that has anything to do with their willingness to let the government shutdown.
Don’t you think that Congress should not have protections that are not afforded to their constituents? Why is Congress exempted from a pay freeze during shutdowns? They could certainly handle doing without a few days, weeks, or months of pay better than a park service attendant. And, those we elect into public service should not be able to push their agendas standing on the backs of their constituency.
I hope that by time you read this, the budget standoff is over and everyone is back to work. I also hope that a reasonable resolution is found for the Dreamers. People’s lives and livelihoods should not become bargaining chips for government elitists.