If President Trump hopes to be remembered in history books, his government shutdown will likely be the top factor. From Dec. 22, 2018 to Jan. 25, 2019, the country was effectively held hostage over the president’s demand for $5.7 billion to fund a wall (or a barrier, depending on the day) at the southern border.
As expected, major issues ensued: TSA agents used sick days to avoid working for no pay, leading to heightened security risks; the FDA halted routine food inspections; national parks overflowed with trash and other waste; IRS and FAA employees were forced to work without pay — the list goes on.
One lesser-talked-about byproduct of the shutdown is its impact on immigrants in the United States. While immigration courts handling dockets of individuals not in immigration detention were shut down, nearly 43,000 immigration hearings were cancelled. This put many waiting for their day in court — in some cases, multiple years — at the end of the line.
Simultaneously, nearly 8,000 more immigration detainees were added to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) jails and private prisons. Funding for the additional individuals was diverted from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) in September to offset overspending from ICE.
The additional space in ICE jails is not a product of the government shutdown. It does, however, highlight the agency’s gross overspending during a time where hardworking government employees are forced to work without pay — all for a “solution” to a problem that does not exist. The only way to avoid a shutdown for “border security”— and reap the benefits immigrants bring to the U.S. — will be through comprehensive immigration reform.