by OneAmerica Executive Director Rich Stolz and Northwest Immigrant Rights Project Executive Director Jorge Baron
Voters, especially New American voters, turned out in record numbers in this last election to send a message to state legislatures across the country and to Congress that they should reject policies that harm immigrants and further divide our country. Yet in the remaining days of 2018, the President is threatening to shut down the government if he fails to extract more funding out of the current Congress for his wasteful, divisive border wall. Congressional Democrats have rejected the President’s gross attempt at extortion, but the pressure will only grow between now and Congress’ newly self-imposed deadline, December 21st.
Like so many Americans, we have been horrified with the implementation of xenophobic and racist policies by President Trump and his administration: a discriminatory travel ban primarily targeting a list of Muslim-majority nations, a so-called “zero-tolerance” policy that ripped children from their parents at the border, the drastic reduction of refugee admissions, the illegal rejection of asylum applications and the tear gassing of children at the border, and threats to take away status from lawfully present residents.
Federal budgets reveal America’s values. When we decide to give even more money to Customs and Border Protection (CBP), we are saying we should give a “raise” to the agency that ripped apart thousands of children from their parents this past year and tear-gassed women and children at the border this past month. With each additional dollar that goes to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), we are saying we support the detention of family members for the benefit of private prison corporations. When we negotiate money for the border wall, we negotiate people’s dignity and basic humanity.
If Congress holds firm against the President’s threat, a simple continuing resolution would still fund CBP at $1.3 billion more than in the 2017 federal fiscal year, which will add to the growing tally spent on the increasing militarization of the southern border: more than $20 billion over the last six years alone. This is funding that could have been invested in improving infrastructure at ports of entry and in ensuring that asylum seekers have a meaningful opportunity to apply for protection. It’s funding that could have been spent on emergency response to wildfires and hurricanes, or early learning, or affordable housing or other programs that directly benefit all of us. If we’ve learned anything from the last two years about “border security,” what the United States does at its southern border does nothing to discourage desperate families from trying to protect their children.
Washington’s Senators, Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell, who have taken important stands for immigrant communities on numerous occasions, should call the President’s bluff. They should reject wasteful spending increases for CBP and ICE, reject funding for a border wall, and do everything they can to roll back the brutality of the current immigration regime under this Administration.
The President may boast of his being “proud” to shut down the government as a bargaining chip so he can get his wall, but we must not negotiate shutting our communities out and pushing immigrants, refugees, and asylum seekers further into the margins of our society. Democrats can deliver on their promises and Senator Murray and Senator Cantwell can represent the best of Washington’s values by affirming their commitment to liberty and justice for all.