By Zoe Stratos | Staff Columnist
On Dec. 22, the government commenced a partial shutdown after the president and the Democrats’ disagreement over new spending legislation to be passed on Dec. 21. The $5.7 billion wall to be constructed along the southern border of the U.S. was the star of the show.
Sticking to the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” policy, the shutdown has now been going on for 27 days — and no end seems to be in sight. So far, the shutdown has been the longest in history beating out the Clinton administration shutdown that lasted from Dec. 5, 1995 to Jan. 6, 1996: 21 days.
Both sides have barely made any ground towards compromise over border control issues, and the president threatened to declare a national emergency if necessary. With that, unused funds for other portions of legislation would go directly to funding the wall, while bypassing congressional approval.
On the Republicans’ and president’s side, compromise has only gone as far as changing the wall from concrete to a metal structure, and Democrats refuse to comply. Their compromise includes increased border security in other ways, such as cameras and other advanced technologies.
According to ThoughtCo.com, if President Trump were to receive the requested $5.7 billion, it would only cover 234 miles — along with the 580 miles already in place. This would leave around 1,140 miles uncovered. All around, the wall is quite expensive, and the U.S. government is already far in debt; over $21 trillion to be exact. To continue building this wall would only push us further, and quicker, into that debt.
Both sides continually play the blame game, as per usual, making the stalemate tough to break through. In the background of all of the arguing lie over 800,000 government-employed citizens and government-funded programs and locations struggling with money. Some citizens have to work without pay. Some have been furloughed. Programs and locations are temporarily shut down or reduced in funding, as well.
The Republican party and the president’s urgency to block off our southern border is unnecessary as of now, since U.S. citizens are suffering from losses of money, home, food, Medicare and other major necessities. The worry that illegal immigrants are taking over citizens’ jobs sounds hypocritical at the moment — the government is currently taking away more than 800,000 jobs.
One of the most alarming situations includes TSA agents’ refusal to show up, reasonably, for unpaid work. In major airports like Atlanta and Miami, multiple security lines were closed, along with closed terminals due to major understaffing. In this battle over border control and immigration laws, the government is failing to realize the extreme risk of understaffing airports, as well as other borders. Isn’t increasing our control over immigration the whole point of this shutdown?
With that said, illegal crossing at the southern border is hardly the biggest concern, even though the president makes it out to be. According the Department of Homeland Security and the Center for Migration Studies — and according to the BBC — the number of immigrants who overstayed their visas is greater than those who crossed the border illegally every year since 2007.
Not only that, but also according to the BBC, “In 2017, Canadians made up the largest group of these illegal [im]migrants that entered by air or sea port of entry, followed by Mexicans,” even though most do indeed enter by land.
Another huge problem lies in our national parks. As it is difficult to supervise such a large area of open land, national parks are beginning to feel the effects of the government shutdown as it enters its fourth week.
According to the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA), most national parks are closed for public safety reasons, and Joshua Tree National Park specifically is experiencing trouble.
“Vandalism, illegal camping and off-road vehicle use, and extensive trash and human waste led Superintendent David Smith to announce that he would close the park indefinitely,” said the NPCA. “A press statement from the National Park Service later reversed this decision and declared the park would stay open using previously collected fee revenue. Smith reported earlier this week that vandals had cut locks off of closed entrance gates, killed Joshua trees and driven vehicles illegally in closed parts of the park, creating new roads through pristine desert areas.”
Other national parks are accumulating an alarming amount of trash, which is endangering the plants and animals inhabiting the forests.
NPCA estimates say “the Park Service is losing $400,000 per day from entrance fee revenue. Additional shutdown costs include the opportunity cost of lost labor, the cost of postponing maintenance that can lead to further and more costly damage and the cost of cleanup after the shutdown.”
With all of that said, increased border security isn’t an overall bad idea. The ways in which our government is currently handling the situation, though, are ineffective and childish — on both sides. Due to our government’s inability to communicate with one another, citizens everywhere are suffering, and it’s only going to get worse if the shutdown continues into next month. Even though the government can’t come up with an effective compromise, a shutdown was not the best way to push the agenda.