Battle for the Wall: Federal Workers Are the Only Casualties

Government shutdowns shouldn’t be long. For 35 days, the federal government had been in a standstill over the debate of whether to fund Trump’s border wall. This has been an issue since President Trump entered office, with plans for funding ranging from Mexico paying for it, Mexico paying the US back, and finally seeking funding from Congress. Meanwhile, around 800,000 workers are without pay.

Previously, there have been 20 government shutdowns in American history with a variety of different causes. Under the presidency of Jimmy Carter, the government closed five times over abortion funding. Meanwhile, the formerly longest shutdown was previously held by Bill Clinton in 1995 over federal spending. Despite the repercussions, past presidents fought for civil rights like a woman’s right to choose and providing better healthcare. Yet our current president is holding the government hostage and only the federal employees are suffering.

In an effort to afford living through the shutdown, Coast Guard employees have been told to have garage sales while other governmental employees have asked for donations on GoFundMe, a popular website where anyone can donate to a variety of causes. Meanwhile, about 5,000 furloughed employees have applied for unemployment benefits. However, only a portion of them are eligible since only some of them are considered unemployed, while a portion are required to work without pay aren’t able to utilize this service (the only exception is California). To top it off, any furloughed employees who receive their back-pay will have to pay back their state for the money they received from unemployment. Is this supposed to be how the “greatest Country in the world,” according to President Trump, treats its citizens?

No. Hard-working Americans are struggling to pay their bills despite having jobs, forcing them to ask for handouts from strangers on the internet or their state. Meanwhile, President Trump serves McDonalds in the White House with a large smile. Meanwhile, both sides of Congress continue to receive paychecks, so no one is backing down. All this is happening due to a failed appropriations budget not passing, simply due to a $5.7 billion wanted for a wall.

Whether you are in support of the wall or not, your opinion doesn’t matter if you’re a federal employee because you’re still out of luck. There is an understandable rationale regarding  the security the wall would provide; however, xenophobia tends to also be a underlying factor. If the wall is truly for American security, then what is this? Nearly a million Americans are suffering on the American side and are not safe at home, and yet a wall for our security against threats abroad is more important. Federal employees can’t afford diapers for their children. Meanwhile, the Trump administration suggests for employees to paint their landlords’ properties to afford to pay rent.

During a time in our nation’s history where politicians serve the votes more than the voters, we need a change.. Instead of holding our heads down, let this inspire us to work harder, to become more knowledgeable, and to elect politicians that choose the well-being of their citizens rather than pieces of concrete.

Frank Peña is a third-year Journalism and Informatics major. He can be reached at fpenaaya@uci.edu.