Editorial: Bridges, not walls

Editorial: Bridges, not walls

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A couple at an immigration rally in Huntington Station in July 2018. Photo by Sara-Megan Walsh

Imagine if your week’s paycheck were hung on a hook from a high ceiling, dangling there within sight but not within reach, all because your boss wanted something the rest of the company said he couldn’t have.

The federal government has not had a spending bill pass the House of Representatives for approximately three weeks, and for that stretch of time, hundreds of thousands have been furloughed, been sent home or have had to work without pay as of press time. That includes thousands of Transportation Security Administration officers at airports and air traffic controllers. 

It’s hard to estimate how many Long Islanders have been affected by the shutdown, but they are certainly out there. Recently, the Suffolk Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals announced it would provide free pet food to government workers who couldn’t afford it due to the shutdown. Long Island Cares, a Hauppauge-based nonprofit food bank, said Jan. 4 it was reaching out to federal employees affected by the shutdown to provide food assistance.

This is the third government shutdown in the past decade and the longest running. There are 800,000 federal workers furloughed or working without pay because of the shutdown, and experts have said there may be a multiplier effect the longer the shutdown goes on, considering the family members of those government workers going without pay. The problem may even impact the larger local economy, harming businesses whose customers must cut back on spending, along with the tourism and travel industries with reports that thousands of TSA officers are calling out sick rather than work without pay.

This latest shutdown has been caused by a laser-targeted policy decision, namely $5.7 billion in funding for a wall on the U.S. and Mexico border. This policy has been near-singularly championed by one official, President Donald Trump (R).

Trump got on national television Jan. 8 to explain to the nation his reasoning on why the U.S. needs a border wall. He made a number of points that have already been fact checked by other news organizations, but suffice it to say he claimed, “The federal government remains shut down for one reason and one reason only: Because Democrats will not fund border security.”

This is simply untrue. Democrats put up a $1.3 billion funding bill for border security measures, including additional surveillance and more fortified fencing. The president would not sign it. It didn’t fund a 2,000-mile border wall.

And that’s what it comes down to — a wall — whether the U.S. will spend billions of dollars on a wall.

This is hostage politics. The Democrats in Congress simply won’t support a wall. The exact specifications for the wall aren’t even set down on paper, and the president is asking the American taxpayer to foot the bill for something immigration experts have outright said will have limited effect on border crossings.

Long Islanders should tell our representatives like U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) to pressure the president to end this dispute, otherwise the effects of a government shutdown will only multiply.

As a country, we have gotten over shutdowns before, and we will get over this one, but while we at TBR News Media feel it is imperative that the border be policed, we believe in bridges, not walls.