WASHINGTON — In a bid to end the government shutdown, President Trump on Saturday proposed a temporary extension of deportation protection to over 1 million immigrants in exchange for funding a Southern border wall.
But it appears that federal workers, including roughly 7,000 FDA employees, will continue to be affected by the month-long government shutdown — the longest on record — as the new proposal was soundly rejected by leading Democrats.
The stalemate that triggered the shutdown hinges on funding for a U.S. border wall with Mexico. The president refuses to sign a spending deal to reopen the government unless it includes billions of dollars for the wall — a long-held campaign promise, though at the time it was Mexico that would foot the bill; for their part, congressional Democrats won’t agree to a bill that includes the wall funding, as they say it embodies the president’s anti-immigrant stance.
In a televised speech at the White House on Saturday, the president outlined his new terms, demanding swift action for “a humanitarian and security crisis on our Southern border.”
Trump described children being exploited by coyotes (those paid to smuggle undocumented individuals across the border), women being raped and sexually assaulted, and the “vast quantities of lethal narcotics” coming into the U.S. where they kill tens of thousands of Americans. This gloom-and-doom forecast was followed by a note of optimism.
“As a candidate for president, I promised I would fix this crisis, and I intend to keep that promise, one way or the other,” he said, explaining that his proposal could “break the logjam” and “provide Congress with a path forward.”
His bill would include the following:
- $800 million in “urgent humanitarian assistance”
- $805 million for “drug detection technology”
- $5.7 billion for a border wall
Trump also proposed adding 75 new immigration judge teams to curb the significant backlog of cases (estimated at 900,000), strengthening border security by adding 2,750 border agents and law enforcement professionals, and developing a new system that would allow Central American minors to apply for asylum in their home countries.
And in what appeared to be a sweetener for Democrats, the president’s proposal also included 3 years of “legislative relief” for 700,000 recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, for those “brought here unlawfully by their parents at a young age,” said Trump.
“Dreamers” as they are called, would be given “access to work permits, Social Security numbers, and protection from deportation,” he explained, while also proposing a 3-year extension for 300,000 immigrants with Temporary Protected Status, whose protections are slated to expire shortly.
But even before the announcement, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) shattered hopes for an end to the shutdown, calling the new deal, which had been leaked to the press, “a compilation of several previously rejected initiatives, each of which is unacceptable” or, put simply, “a non-starter,” The AFP reported on Saturday afternoon.
“Nancy Pelosi and some of the Democrats turned down my offer yesterday before I even got up to speak,” Trump complained in a series of Sunday morning tweets.
House Democrats are expected to vote on a bill to reopen the government later this week that includes $1 billion in border security funding, including money for immigration judges and port security, but no funds for a border wall.
Approximately 380,000 federal employees have been furloughed because of what is technically a “partial government shutdown” and 420,000, who are deemed “essential,” are working without pay. That critical government staff are not working has stoked fears of potential foodborne illness outbreaks, though the FDA has since called back hundreds of workers to conduct high-risk surveillance inspections. The shutdown has also led to the closure of at least one set of clinics serving Native Americans, since the Indian Health Service is unable to pay urban contractors, and other clinics may follow suit.
Last week, the FDA posted to its website details on the passage of the Government Employee Fair Treatment Act of 2019, which “guarantees that federal workers who are furloughed or working without pay will be compensated” for the period of the shutdown, which started December 22, 2018. Employees will retroactively be paid when a new appropriation or continuing resolution for 2019 is approved, they said.