Reopen government without giving in to tyrannical demands

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category icon Editorials, Opinion

If it persists into the upcoming weekend — and since the president has threatened to keep it going for months or even years if he doesn’t get his way, there’s a good chance it will — the federal government shutdown will be the longest in United States history.

The shutdown has very real consequences for thousands of families trying to make it from paycheck to paycheck. On Jan. 15, members of the U.S. Coast Guard, who regularly save lives off the Washington and Oregon coasts, will join the thousands of federal employees who are working without being paid. Their families will not only have to worry about their loved ones coming home safe, but also about paying the bills.

Last week, Democrats and a handful of Republicans in Congress passed a legislation package that would end the shutdown. They included billions of dollars for border security in this package, including $1.3 billion for new fencing in the Rio Grande Valley and replacement fencing in San Diego; nearly $8 million to hire more U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers; $225 million for inspection equipment at ports of entry; and $366 million for border security technology.

The one thing the legislation didn’t include was $5 billion for Trump’s ill-conceived border wall. Which is, apparently, why Republican Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler voted against both bills to reopen the government.

“The president has demanded $5 billion to construct a physical barrier,” Herrera Beutler stated in an opinion piece published in The Columbian on Jan. 6. “While I will never call $5 billion a small amount of money, in the context of a $4.4 trillion federal budget it doesn’t seem like a deal-breaker.”

In return for the wall, Herrera Beutler says the Democrats should get protection for “DREAMers,” the immigrants brought to the United States as young children who have been caught in this fight over Trump’s wall ever since the president tried to kill former President Barack Obama’s Deferred Action f0r Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program in September 2017.

The problem with this line of thinking is that it plays straight into the hands of a man who regularly calls immigrants “criminals,” “rapists” and “animals, not people” to appease his hardcore anti-immigrant base.

Trump doesn’t care about the DREAMers. Look at what happened during the January 2018 government shutdown: Democrats offered a concession for the wall in return for the president’s protection for DREAMers but Trump refused that deal, too. In November 2018, a journalist from Politico asked Trump if he would be willing to trade DREAMer protections for his wall, but “the answer to that seemed to be a resounding ‘no.'”

Trump seems to be waiting for his now conservative-leaning Supreme Court to rule against DACA so he can really use the DREAMers as pawns to get whatever he wants. Or, as a Nov. 28, 2018 article published in the Intelligencer put it: “(Trump) doesn’t want to negotiate over their fates until the Supreme Court lets him put a loaded gun to their heads.”

Last week, The Post-Record asked the congresswoman’s staff a series of questions about why Herrera Beutler voted against the legislation to reopen the government. In return, we received a copy of the congresswoman’s opinion piece in The Columbian.

The congresswoman’s opinion piece reiterates some of the already debunked “facts” the president rolled out again Tuesday in his first Oval Office address.

“Ninety percent of the heroin that’s responsible for killing 300 Americans a week comes across the southern border,” Herrera Beutler stated. “Strengthening the physical border would significantly contribute toward preventing that scourge.”

What she doesn’t say is that most of the heroin is coming through legal points of entry. A 2018 Drug Enforcement Agency report showed that only “a small percentage” was between ports of entry. Trump’s wall, even if it could be built — there are about 5,000 parcels of privately owned property our government would need to buy or seize first — would barely make a dent in drug trafficking at our southern border.

What would a border wall do? As Nina Khrushcheva, great-granddaughter of former Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev, the mastermind behind the Berlin Wall, recently wrote, Trump’s wall will do exactly what other border walls have done throughout history: “Spread fear, closed-mindedness and isolationism.”

“Instead of leading the world away from its worst impulses, as America did for most of the 20th century, (Trump’s) demands … look to be leaning closer to the autocratic acts and optics of tyrannical regimes,” Khrushcheva states. “This symbolism alone should have given a president pause. Instead, Trump continues his vehement demands — and insisted on forcing a partial government shutdown once Congress balked.”

We urge Herrera Beutler, along with Sens. Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell, to heed this warning and help reopen our government immediately — without giving in to the president’s tyrannical demands.