The government shutdown was officially declared on Saturday, Jan. 20, as Republicans and Democrats became stuck in a standoff, neither side being able to agree on an immigration deal.
The shut down was triggered by a procedural vote late Friday evening on a bill regarding immigration. Democrats are strongly in favor of a deal that would prevent those who immigrated as children from being deported. This bill would provide protection for many of your colleagues, classmates, friends, and neighbors. It would keep them from being forced out of this country at any time. It keeps them from living in complete and total fear. After not agreeing on a bill, Democrats announced that they would refrain from supporting all government bills until one regarding protection for immigrants was passed.
Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell proposed a counter to the Democratic Party: a bill that would keep the government open until Thursday, Feb. 8, with a promise that immigration renegotiations would take place in that time. But, considering the frustration Democrats have with Trump’s unwillingness to accept a proposal addressing 700,000 immigrants, they rejected McConnell’s proposal. Instead, they continue to demand assurance from the GOP that an immigration bill will pass through congress before the impending deadline of Thursday, Mar. 5.
On Thursday, Feb 8, the government shut down again, this time for a matter of hours. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer announced a deal on budget caps the past Wednesday, however the deal did not include the question of immigration, leaving Democrats dissatisfied.
The government shutdown was concerning for most Americans, however it was most worrying for the 700,000 people whose fate hangs in the balance. We cannot pride ourselves on the principle of equality if some people are regarded as inferior to others. We cannot deport 700,000 people because of decisions they did not make. We cannot justify forcing people out of their homes—and out of the country they came to for a better life—simply because they do not meet certain logistical standards.
The American dream is not specific to people with certain backgrounds. It is not specific to people with certain heritage, skin color, or native language. America has, for many years, been land of the free, home of the brave. Papers are not an indicator that a person can live in the United States. By depriving people the right to live in the United States simply because they don’t have the right papers is reducing humans to mere numbers. Every person immigrating to the United States is more than a number, a data point, a housing address. They are people coming in search of a better life.
The moment an American citizen votes to remove others from their beautiful country, we lose sight of the important ideals it was founded upon. The principles that make up our Constitution—life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness—are not and should not be limited to certain people.
Of course, too many people in the United States is a drain on resources. People who come to America and engage in crime are a danger to other citizens. There are numerous problems with immigration that cannot be overlooked. Passports and other official documents should remain in effect for the purpose of keeping other American citizens safe. There should still be records of people entering and exiting the United States. However, it is when those records and papers prevent families and individuals seeking a better life from entering this country that they become a problem. We cannot deny thousands of people the right to a better life for fear of one or two of them becoming criminals. We cannot deny little children the right to good education for fear that it might increase the cost of groceries.
Everyday people who have come to this country are continuing to improve their lives. Studies done by the Center for American Progress show that less than one in five immigrants live in poverty. Their opportunities for education are increasing as are their salaries. US born children of immigrants are more likely to go to college than children with US born parents. With the exception of a few outliers, immigrants living in this country continue to better themselves through the opportunities America has to offer.
Later, McConnell proposed a new idea; extending government funding for another two and a half weeks so that members of Congress could continue debating immigration. McConnell added that if no compromise was reached, an official bill regarding immigration would be proposed by the Republicans. This offer was accepted and negotiations began immediately.
Republicans of this country would like you to believe that the rights to freedom and equality depend on papers. They would like you to think that 700,000 lives being uprooted for no good reason would not greatly affect our country. However, these issues, issues of citizenship and belonging for thousands of people, affect many.
The government shutdown represents those fighting for equality for all and those who are not. Do not be the voices that force thousands of people who have spent the majority of their lives here to be deported. Do not deracinate the people in our schools, grocery stores, offices, or libraries. An America to be proud of is an America that has equal opportunity for all.