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Why This Sh-tshow Matters: Another Look at Trump’s Border Wall Stunt (and the Real People Being Hurt by Him)

So I was wrong, after all. President Donald Trump took 25% of the federal government hostage, and he’s demanding that the nation pay him at least $2 billion in ransom in order to reopen these federal agencies. Thus far Democrats have stood strong in refusing to give into his ransom demands, as we only have one more week until Democrats officially take control of the U.S. House and instantly gain more leverage.

However, there’s far more to this shutdown shitshow than just “The Donald”, the Democrats, and “The Wall”. There are real lives at stake, and it’s important for us to remember them amidst all the typical media punditry that’s come to define America in the Trump era.

Yes, people are actually dying under Trump’s deportation regime.

Yesterday, on midnight, on Christmas Day, an eight-year-old Guatemalan refugee died while being detained by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP). His death came just 17 days after another refugee child, Jakelin Caal, also died of dehydration and shock less than 24 hours after being apprehended by federal agents.

In addition, these are two more cases that highlight the growing list of grave human rights violations that have occurred under President Donald Trump’s watch. Even when immigrants are not physically being attacked by federal agents, they face additional challenges as Trump positions the federal government to penalize working poor immigrants who dare to seek help for family members in need.

Against this backdrop of immense cruelty and hardship, Trump demands a more visible symbol of his xenophobic, nativist ideology. Though he consistently promised, “Mexico will pay for it”, during the 2016 campaign, Trump has resorted to demanding the American taxpayers pay for his desired border wall. He initially demanded a full $25 billion, then $5 billion, then possibly $2-3 billion, and now back to $5 billion or more, to begin building it.

In the new year, Congress has an opportunity to end this shitshow. Will Congress take it?
Photo by Andrew Davey

Perhaps the most perplexing aspect of this latest (partial) government shutdown is that Trump insisted on doing it just days before Democrats take the majority in the U.S. House. Thus far, House and Senate Democrats have been resolute in refusing Trump’s demands for border wall ransom, including Senator Catherine Cortez Masto (D) and Senator-elect Jacky Rosen (D). And with fellow Nevada Democrats like Rep. Dina Titus (D-Las Vegas) set to gain more power as part of the new House majority, they will very soon have the power to advocate for Nevadans like Cecilia Gomez who have suffered at the hands of Trump’s deportation regime.

Yet in February, Democratic leaders buckled under Trump’s demand for border wall funding when he took DREAMers hostage. Though Trump didn’t get his wish of $25 billion in border wall funding, he did succeed in squashing any hope of Congress passing any version of the DREAM Act this year, as Democratic leaders opted to walk away from the first shutdown fight of 2018 while Trump reset the terms of debate on immigration issues on Capitol Hill. And this hasn’t just affected DREAMers, but also TPS refugees, refugees under other legal statuses, and millions of other immigrants across the spectrum of status.

Trump seems to be betting on Democrats buckling under his pressure again, even though public opinion and Congressional whip counts are working in Democrats’ favor. It’s now up to Democratic leaders to prove they have the wherewithal to beat Trump at his game… And more importantly, to deliver real results for the American families at the front lines of Trump’s war on immigrant communities. As the new year quickly approaches, Congress will likely have the opportunity to give these communities some kind of new hope. Will Congress take it? Right now, that’s up to these newly empowered Democrats to decide.

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