1. Update
  2. Immigrants & Refugees

Government Heads Into Partial Shutdown

By Gabriela Viera, Hannah Graf Evans, December 22, 2018


The debate over how Congress will fund immigration enforcement culminated with the president opting for a partial government shutdown rather than signing a bill with less than $5 billion for a border wall between the U.S. and Mexico.

After months of delaying a decision on how much funding to include for border wall construction and immigration enforcement, Congress’ last spending extension expired at midnight, Dec. 21, 2018. To avert a shutdown, the Senate passed another short-term bill through January 2019. However, just two days before the deadline and after many senators had gone home, President Trump threw bipartisan negotiations off track by refusing to sign any bill that did not allocate a full $5 billion for a border wall.

This demand differed vastly from his initial formal budget request of $1.6 billion, which was included in the bipartisan Senate appropriations bill to fund the Department of Homeland Security.

Shutdowns are Irresponsible

President Trump’s last-minute decision to double down on an unrealistic and harmful funding request for detention, deportation, and border enforcement left congressional leaders in a lurch and prompted a partial government shutdown.

The partial shutdown affects the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Agriculture, and four other government departments which employ about a third of the federal government workforce.

Shutdowns are irresponsible and affect individuals and government agencies far beyond the Department of Homeland Security and lawmakers themselves. The mostly agreed upon spending bills for the other federal departments remain in limbo. If our leaders cannot reach a deal and a shutdown lasts into the new year, it will impact housing programs, nutrition programs for children and pregnant women, and many other services. More than 800,000 federal workers will go without pay; roughly half of whom will still be required to work this holiday season.

What’s Next?

The president’s full wish list on immigration enforcement and the border wall does not have enough support to pass both chambers of Congress. Derailing a bipartisan spending negotiation to meet President Trump’s misguided and constantly moving goalposts is not the solution for our immigration system. Neither is it responsible stewardship of our nation’s tax dollars. Being strong-armed into voting for additional border wall under threat of a shutdown is not good governance.

Congress must work together to pass a morally and fiscally responsible spending bill to reopen the government while protecting the rights and dignity of immigrants and refugees in our communities. This means limiting the amount of money for additional border wall, border militarization, detention, and deportation in favor of increased oversight, accountability, and emphasis on restoring integrity to the immigration process. The president must honor the bipartisan compromise required to fund the government and align spending with shared values.

Gabriela Viera

  • Program Assistant, Immigration & Refugee Policy

Gabriela Viera served as the Program Assistant for Immigration and Refugee Policy for 2018-2019.

Hannah Graf Evans

  • Legislative Representative, Immigration and Refugee Policy

Hannah Graf Evans lobbies for compassionate immigration policies. Our immigration system should empower immigrants and the American communities to which they belong, lift up the voices of border communities, and ensure adequate protections for refugees, asylum-seekers and victims of trafficking. Hannah served as co-chair of the Interfaith Immigration Coalition steering committee for three years and still plays an active role in pursuing shared policy priorities of the more than 50 faith-based member organizations.