As the longest (partial) government shutdown in our nation’s history drags on, the country is at risk for bad economic and security outcomes. It’s time for all parties to compromise. Now.
Major security vulnerabilities
The risk of something detrimental happening is increasing.
As Peggy Noonan wrote in her column entitled “End this Stupid Shutdown,” “It’s dangerous: Something bad will happen with air security, food inspection—something.”
The TSA released a statement that 1 in 10 of its employees scheduled to work last Sunday took the day off, with many employees citing “financial limitations” preventing them from working. If TSA and air traffic employees continue to miss several paychecks, our national security could be vulnerable.
An offer to act on
The president has put an offer on the table to get the $5.7 billion in funding for steel barriers on the southern border in exchange for a three-year protection from deportation for some undocumented immigrants.
Trump has also offered a three-year extension of the Temporary Protected Status program that acts as a shield from deportation for undocumented immigrants from certain countries, saying that he was open to allowing a reprieve for up to 300,000 people with TPS.
Additionally, Trump proposed $800 million in humanitarian assistance, $805 million in new drug-detection technology, 2,750 more border agents and law-enforcement officials, 75 new immigration judge teams, and a new system to allow Central American minors to apply for asylum in their home countries.
This compromise mirrors the BRIDGE Act, proposed in 2017 by U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Sen. Richard Durbin (D-IL).
In a constructive comment about a potential path forward, House Majority Whip Rep. James Clyburn (S.C.), said the president “could get $5.7 billion for permanent DACA, permanent temporary protective status, and a sensible, effective, efficient, humane wall” so long as it’s not concrete.
There are a lot of materials to build any sort of border structure. Engineers and linguists could help bridge the divide.
Sen. Durbin, the second-ranking Democrat in the Senate, had already agreed to $1.6 billion in border security funding as part of the agreement he struck with Sen. Lindsey Graham and a bipartisan group of senators last year. So, we’re really talking about $3 billion more for border security in order to provide real peace of mind—even if temporary— to hundreds of thousands of individuals in the U.S who are living productive lives and contributing to our country.
A serious counteroffer
What would a reasonable counteroffer from congressional Democrats look like?
Pass a funding bill to provide the president the money in the range he’s calling for, but with the requirement that the dollars are used in a way to best protect the country from drugs and human trafficking. Additionally, Congress should require quarterly reports to measure the results. Congress could request that the protections for DACA recipients be made permanent and make clear that the ultimate goal is what the president proposed in last year’s State of the Union address: deportation protections for about 1.7 million individuals with an eventual path to citizenship.
The room for negotiation is there now, especially with the U.S. Supreme Court signaling that it won’t take up the question in the near-term of whether suspension of the DACA program is solely within the executive branch’s powers.
As National Immigration Forum Executive Director Ali Noorani wrote in an excellent recent column, a bipartisan deal is in reach that meets Americans’ expectations for an approach to immigration that balances security and compassion.
Arizona students and our economy need a solution
A compromise would be particularly helpful for Arizona. In the State of Arizona v. Maricopa County Community College District Board, the state Supreme Court last year ruled unanimously that DACA recipients are not eligible for in-state tuition because they aren’t lawfully present in the country for the purposes of public benefits under federal law.
Our state has one of the nation’s largest DACA populations—about 28,000. In Arizona, more than 87 percent of DACA recipients are working and earning an average of $17 per hour, and one in five are also pursuing an advanced degree, which means that Arizona DACA recipients are major economic contributors.
At a time when the U.S. economy has more jobs than people to fill them, the chance to increase the supply of workers and the talent pipeline has obvious appeal to the business community.
An analysis by the Cato Institute estimates that rescinding DACA would cost over $60 billion to the federal government along with a $280 billion reduction in economic growth over the next decade.
There are efforts to assist on the state level, but the only permanent and complete fix is possible on the federal level.
Immigration politics has been disputed for more than a generation, culminating in the longest shutdown in the history of this country. With a divided government, compromise is needed. If all parties negotiate in good faith, the government will reopen and we will have made substantive progress in fixing our broken immigration system with the real possibility of a total fix.
Get a deal done. Now.
Glenn Hamer is the president and CEO of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry