If you tried to visit the Statue of Liberty on January 20th, you would have been severely disappointed. Due to the government shutdown, this monument, and many other government programs, were temporarily closed. This is good news for Republicans, because inscribed at the base of the statue is something they’d probably prefer you didn’t see. The plaque on Ellis Island, the entryway into America for many immigrants in the past, reads “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” It’s the protection of this very sentiment that was under question during the recent shutdown.
The fact that the passage of the government budget was closely tied to American immigration is slightly confusing, but essentially, Democratic congressmen refused to pass the Republican budget unless they properly addressed the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). Under this program, illegal immigrants who came here as minors could have their deportation deferred; President Trump has been working towards its repeal since taking office.
This repeal attempt is in line with Trump’s aggressive anti-immigration platform, which includes other severely misled ideas like the construction of the Mexican border wall, the reduced immigration limit, and the Muslim travel ban. Although Republicans have historically been hardline on immigration, DACA has been a rallying point for liberals and supporters because it is seen by many as one of the most mild and compassionate programs, as it specifically targets children.
Despite the fact that there are hundreds of thousands of recipients of DACA, whose lives would be severely affected by any changes to the program, Republicans have been ignoring the issue. To force action, Democrats refused to give the necessary majority to pass the newest budget bill unless it included measures to extend and ensure the future of DACA. Extreme? Maybe. Necessary? Absolutely. Every branch of the government has a Republican majority, meaning that Democrats have very little opportunity to put pressure on important issues, and this was a rare chance to do so. So, in my opinion, the shutdown was a very good thing.
Whether or not the shutdown accomplished its goal is another question altogether, and honestly, I think the success was minor at best. While the initial Democratic resistance was impressive, they caved and ended the shutdown too early. Rather than DACA being fully addressed, Democrats gained nothing more than a promise from Republican leadership that the issue will be dealt with over the course of the next month. While this is certainly better than nothing, it is not enough when the lives of Americans are on the line.
No one wants to be responsible for closing the government, and I believe this is why Democrats were so quick to end the shutdown when they were offered even a slight improvement. Yet in this specific instance, I think closing the government should be a point of pride. President Trump can throw blame at Democrats, and they should gladly accept it. It would have been better to hold out longer and see real action on DACA. Still, at the very least, this short shutdown brought attention to a very important issue, and it will now be easier to keep pressure on our leadership to get to work on DACA.
Immigration policy is a controversial and complex topic, and in most situations, there really are two legitimate, defensible sides. When it comes to DACA, there is not. Parties and politics aside, there is only one morally and ethically acceptable answer when it comes to DACA. Those protected under this program are people who have lived here most of their lives, studied in U.S. schools, served in our military. They are Americans. Any government that tries to destroy their lives by sending them “home,” should be shut down.
The Statue of Liberty’s inscription goes on to promise that for those tired and needy immigrants seeking refuge, “I lift my lamp beside the golden door!” Our current government would prefer that this door be locked, even though such actions violate principles at the very core of the United States. Yet in the midst of this complete disregard for American values, these very same leaders have the audacity to question the patriotism of DACA recipients.