Janet Murguía is president and chief executive of UnidosUS.
Almost three weeks in, the pain of the government shutdown is real and is only going to get worse. Yet let’s be clear: This shutdown happened because of the fiction that a wall — which has morphed in President Trump’s mind from a massive concrete structure to essentially steel venetian blinds — will supposedly fix the immigration issue.
We could be charitable and say that Trump keeps moving the goal posts, but that would imply a playing field even exists. By all accounts, a wall along the southern border would be a wasteful, ineffective and deeply unpopular monument to the president’s fantasies and, more likely than not, impossible to achieve. The wall is such a boondoggle, even some hard-liners in the extremist, anti-immigrant movement don’t want it.
Yet, some members of Congress have stepped into the fray in recent days, seemingly willing to put their credibility on the line to make the case for a wall. To their credit, Republican Sens. Thom Tillis (N.C.) and Lindsey O. Graham (S.C.), for example, have both expressed a desire to reach across the aisle for a bipartisan solution to the funding stalemate. Their apparent offer? Supposedly renewing discussions about encoding protections for young immigrants covered by the Obama administration’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy in exchange for significant border security funding.
We’ve seen this movie before, though. With open minds and hearts, some of us supported bipartisan discussions on this issue in the Senate this time last year. And how could we not? “Dreamers” — the undocumented immigrants brought to the United States at a young age who know no other country than this one — and those with temporary protected status (who, by definition, are not considered public-safety threats) put their faith in government by coming forward. Today, they face impending termination of their protections, largely held intact by court orders, because of this administration’s actions. And it’s not just them: It is estimated that at least 200,000 and 273,000 U.S.-citizen children have a parent who is covered by DACA and TPS, respectively. Their lives also hang in the balance.
But each time we got close, the White House stymied progress by insisting on a laundry list of extremist anti-immigrant policies. If that is what these vocal members of Congress have in mind again, then that is simply not going to cut it.
Elections have consequences. In November, voters throughout the nation — from Virginia to Kansas to Nevada — resoundingly repudiated, in the clearest terms possible, the most extreme anti-immigrant candidates and aspects of the president’s immigration policies. These included draconian cuts to legal immigration, the administration’s mass deportations agenda in the interior of the country, and weakening our nation’s refugee and asylum protections.
To solve this impasse and to end the president’s shutdown, it is time for Republican leaders in Congress to get real.
A real solution will provide dreamers with an earned pathway to citizenship. It will regularize the status of more than 300,000 longtime legal residents with temporary protected status who also, thanks to the policies of this administration, find themselves in legal limbo. A real solution would restore trust in law enforcement and promote public safety by implementing interior immigration enforcement policies that actually prioritize significant public-safety threats, not just those conjured up in the president’s mind.
And, yes, a real solution could result in sensible, fact-based investments that modernize our nation’s capacity so that the federal government can effectively manage and administer our borders. Restoring the public’s trust in one of the largest federal law enforcement agencies — Customs and Border Protection — through meaningful accountability and transparency measures is a basic requirement, but so, too, is the need to calibrate taxpayer resources to match changing border priorities. For example, illegal border crossing attempts continue to hover around historic lows. A greater share of individuals legally seeking refuge are presenting themselves at ports of entry than ever before. New significant border investments should be heavily weighted toward expanding meaningful infrastructure and appropriate staffing levels at our nation’s ports of entry.
It is past time we end the madness. The Trump shutdown is needlessly hurting real people, including hundreds of thousands of federal workers and, likely, millions of U.S. families. It is long past time to end the telenovela playing out on prime-time television. It is time for Republicans in Congress and the president to finally get real on finding a solution that also provides a long-overdue lifeline to dreamers, TPS recipients and their families who have long called this country home.