US government shutdown: what it is and why it's happening

  1. The president’s cooperation on immigration comes with a price, including his proposed Mexican border wall. 
  2. Seventy-nine percent of DACA recipients are from Mexico, according to Pew Research.

The U.S. government shut down at midnight on Friday, resulting in a suspension of “non-essential” federal services.

The shutdown affects sectors such as the Department of Labor and National Parks Service.

Essential services, including national security, emergency healthcare, and the U.S. Postal Service, remain in operation.

The shutdown came after Democratic and Republican lawmakers failed to pass a budget before Friday night’s deadline.

This isn’t the first time the government has shut down. In 2013, the federal government shut down over a dispute involving healthcare reform. Republican congress members attempted to “defund Obamacare,” a law they saw as drastic government overreach.

The current gridlock mostly stems from differences over immigration – a defining issue of candidate Donald Trump’s presidential campaign. The divide largely boils down to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and border security.

Recipients of DACA legal protections are known as “Dreamers.”Democrats want protections for Dreamers, per an Obama-era executive order that prevented deportation of undocumented immigrants who illegally arrived in the United States as minors. President Trump ended DACA with an executive order of his own, leaving the roughly 700,000 undocumented immigrants under the program vulnerable for deportation.

Trump has expressed sympathy for DACA recipients in the past, even at the risk of angering his electoral base. However, the president’s cooperation on immigration comes with a price, including his proposed border wall with Mexico (Fortune).

Donald J. Trump on Twitter

Does anybody really want to throw out good, educated and accomplished young people who have jobs, some serving in the military? Really!…..

The White House has made increased border security and a 1,000-mile-long barrier along the Mexican border primary demands in budget negotiations (CNN). Democrats have opposed the idea ever since candidate Trump made his campaign promise to “build a wall.”

Concerns about border security refer mainly to the United States’ 1,954-mile-long land border with Mexico. Seventy-nine percent of DACA recipients are from Mexico, according to Pew Research

The word that derailed negotiations

The White House has said it’s not interested in negotiating an immigration deal with Democrats until the government is reopened.

Democrats say Trump nixed a compromise deal after initially supporting it. The bipartisan solution was put together by Democratic Senator Dick Durbin and Republican Senator Lindsey Graham specifically over the immigration issue.

Hope for a deal fizzled on January 11 once the senators entered the Oval Office, according to Graham, where a tense exchange ensued and the president had a change of heart (Buzzfeed).

The dispute centered on the disproportionate acceptance of immigrants from impoverished countries, Haiti and African nations in particular. The language used in the meeting is disputed. Durbin said that during the meeting Trump used the word “shithole” to refer to these developing countries. A source later claimed the offensive word was actually “shithouse.” The language ignited debate over which nationalities the United States should accept, and whether the president is racist for voicing a preference for European immigrants over Haitians (Politico). 

However inflammatory Trump’s choice of words might have been, the DACA fight revolves around immigrants primarily from Spanish-speaking countries.

Pew Research via data from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. From September 2017.

The Childhood Health Insurance Program (CHIP) is another dispute in the political showdown, though one that enjoys more bipartisan support than DACA. Republicans offered to extend CHIP by six years in a temporary stop-gap budget bill (CNBC). But the bill didn’t pass, mainly because it didn’t include language on DACA. CHIP remains unfunded, leaving 9 million children without federal assistance for health care payments (Families USA).

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