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Trump’s Shutdown Overwhelms Immigration Courts and Stiffs Agents

— January 3, 2019

President Donald Trump’s demands for a bigger, better border wall are taking a toll on immigration agents and officers.

While the federal government continues to grind through a partial shutdown, not all of its employees are exempted from staying home. Workers who perform ‘essential’ functions still have to punch the clock, without pay or knowing when they might next be compensated.

The Washington Post claims the shutdown is placing extraordinary strain on an already overwhelmed immigration system.

Immigration courts continue to contend with a piled-up backlog which already encompasses nearly 1 million cases. But the judges in charge of prosecuting and adjudicating them have been temporarily dismissed, gone until the White House approves a budget.

Employers may also find themselves in precarious circumstances. According to the Post, companies trying to check the immigration status of potential hires face an error on E-Verify.

Donald Trump in 2016. Trump has continued to blame Democrats for his own immigration failings. Image from Flickr via Wikimedia Commons/user:Gage Skidmore. (CCA-BY-2.0).

E-Verify, run by the federal government, has a red banner atop its webpage. Its services are “currently unavailable due to a lapse in government appropriations.”

Deb Wakefield, an employment attorney in Dallas, told the Post that her clients aren’t sure how to check documents without E-Verify down. Her clients include a mattress factory and chemical plant, both of which hire immigrants.

“They’re saying, ‘We can’t run E-Verify, what are we suppose to do?’,” Wakefield said. “But all they can do is wait.”

The shutdown, notes the Post, was supposed to address what President Trump perceives as critical faults in immigration policy. Trump made demands for a bigger, better border wall central to his presidential campaign, and hasn’t backed down since.

Democrats have offered billions in border security funding in the past, in exchange for DACA reprieves and other concessions. But the commander-in-chief reneged on negotiations and refused alternative offers.

Now, Congress remains in a stalemate over the $5.6 billion Trump wants for a border wall but Democrats are unwilling to accede.

The Post reports that Customs and Border Protection agents detain more than 2,000 migrants each day, on average. Over half of all arrests include families with children. Without space to keep them, many migrants have been released onto the streets of towns like El Paso, TX, and Yuma, AZ.

Caught in a crossfire between the White House and Congress, CBP personnel still have to stay on duty, safeguarding the border and waiting for politics to provide reprieve.

“They have worked through the holiday season, many had scheduled leave canceled at the start of the shutdown, yet they continue to protect our country,” said Tony Reardon, president of the National Treasury Employees Union. “Like many of us, they are opening the usual bills for mortgages, rent, utilities and food. They are not, however, opening a paycheck.”

Nearly a quarter-million Americans work for the Department of Homeland Security and its associated agencies, but only 14 percent will be paid as the shutdown progresses.

Speaking on behalf of the National Association of Immigration Judges, Ashley Tabaddor said the impact on enforcement has been both “immense” and ironic.

“The irony is not lost on us,” Tabaddor said, “that the immigration court is shut down over immigration.”


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