Washington, D.C. is 1,800 miles from Taos County. But decisions made in the nation’s Capitol – like shutting down the federal government over a border security disagreement – hit …
Washington, D.C. is 1,800 miles from Taos County. But decisions made in the nation’s Capitol – like shutting down the federal government over a border security disagreement – hit home even in our rural Northern New Mexico county.
The furlough is affecting our neighbors, our families, our businesses.
The shutdown turned 26 days old today (Jan. 17) and has left hundreds of thousands of federal employees across the nation without their paychecks. Thousands more continue to work without pay. Hundreds in Taos County work for Carson National Forest, the Bureau of Land Management and private contractors on federal projects, most of them on furlough. But they all still have bills to cover.
As the delay continues, the credit rating for some federal employees who are unable to keep up with bills will tank.
Without paychecks, those thousands of federal workers and contractors aren’t out shopping or eating at restaurants, hurting the revenues of other businesses.
Thousands more people may be affected when their federal home loans and disaster relief payments can’t get processed, federal grant funding is held up and airports start to lose security personnel. Federal tax refunds could be delayed.
Neither the president or Congress wants to cave and lose face; but none of them are worried about how they are going to pay their mortgages, school loans, medical bills or put food on their tables. They’ve got money in the bank and no reason not to just keep fighting each other.
The sticking point is the wall President Trump wants. More than 700 miles of the 2,000 mile long United States border with Mexico already has some kind of barrier – steel, wire, concrete or a mixture. Those barriers have split border towns that once shared culture, families and economies. The barriers have thwarted the migration of wildlife. But the walls have done little to staunch the flow of drugs or people determined to come to the United States.
New stretches of wall won’t fare any better. Drug dealers will dig tunnels under them as they have in the past. Undocumented immigrants will go over or through them.
We think adding physical walls along the border is senseless, but here are a few suggestions, already made by others, for resolving this impasse.
● Sell wall bonds. If President Trump is so certain his wall is a great idea, let him take the matter to the American people. They’ll either support it with their pocketbooks, or not. The idea of selling wall bonds similar to WWII war bonds has been floated since at least 2017 by a couple of lawmakers. So far the idea has gone nowhere.
● Agree on a billion dollars or so to reinforce existing walls and build new steel structures in high traffic areas. But any wall built should not be constructed on land belonging to Americans who don’t want to sell; private property is supposed to be sacrosanct. Congress and the president should then focus a few billion more dollars on hiring more Americans to serve in border patrol and to process asylum requests (thereby putting many more Americans to work and speeding up the process) and providing aid to those immigrants in border camps who are seeking legal entry to our nation through the process.
● Reinstate programs in Central America that were helping build capacity, address violence and boost those economies. Stabilizing those countries and making them safer is another way to entice people to stay and build better lives there and not take the incredibly dangerous journey to an uncertain future in the United States.
Then Congress and Trump should get the federal government operating again, with back pay for those who kept working through the shutdown.
Dragging this furlough out hurts a lot of Americans, including quite a few Taoseños.
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