Conflict Over Border Wall Enters New Phase

Temporary Agreement Reached to Last Until February 15th While the Parties Try to Hammer Out An Agreement

The Chronological Story of the Shutdown 

The shutdown started December 22nd and stemmed from an impasse over President Trump’s demand for $5.7 billion in federal funds for a U.S.–Mexico border wall. In December 2018, the Republican-controlled Senate unanimously passed an appropriations bill without wall funding, and the bill appeared likely to be approved by the Republican-controlled House of Representatives and President Trump. Trump then announced that he would not sign any appropriations bill that did not fund border wall construction. As a result, the House passed a stopgap bill with funding for the wall, but it lacked support in the Senate.

In January 2019, the House—now controlled by a Democratic majority—voted to approve the appropriations bill without wall funding that had previously passed the Senate unanimously. The President has continued to maintain that he will veto any bill that does not fund an entire border wall or structure, and Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has blocked the Senate from considering any appropriations legislation that Trump would not support.

Federal workers were caught in the middle of the shutdown not receiving their normal pay checks for two pay periods. However, during the latter phase of the January shutdown, the Republican minority in the House offered a bill to pay Federal employees and the Democrats would not consider it. Congresswoman Kay Granger, Texas sponsored the resolution. 

On January 25, 2019, President Trump agreed to endorse a stopgap bill to reopen the government for three weeks, to allow for negotiations to take place to approve an appropriations bill that both parties could agree upon. President Trump did insinuate that if Congress failed to reach a deal by February 15, he will shut down the government again or declare a national emergency and use military funding to build the wall.

“I am very proud to announce today – January 25th – that we have reached a deal to end the shutdown and reopen the federal government,” Trump said during a news conference in the Rose Garden. He stated that the government shutdown will be temporarily suspended for three weeks while congress tries to hammer out an agreement that can be signed by the White House. 

The Differences Are Not Negotiable If the Objectives Are Different

Based on historical events and the differences in objectives, the chance of an agreement is impossible, now and in the future. Both parties are negotiating with separate objectives and separate measurements. Consider this, if this was a financial disagreement where one party wanted a 100M USD appropriation for a bill and the other wanted only a 50M USD appropriation, then there is bargaining room somewhere in the middle. 

But with regards to the shutdown, one party wants a 5.7 billion USD appropriation for a wall and the other does not agree that a border barrier structure is the solution to the immigration problem. In that equation, there is no middle ground. It’s either a wall or no wall and the continuance of the open border. You cannot have a little of one and less of another. Imagine two friends who are arguing about who will win a game between the Green Bay Packers and the Pittsburgh Pirates, both this argument and the shutdown negotiations are ludicrous. 

The ATC Brotherhood and the Pizza Love Fest for FAA, TSA, and Other Federal Employees

I guess that old saying is true, even the darkest clouds can have a silver lining. How about those pizzas, and free food for the struggling federal workers, staying on the job and not getting paid? There are too many to name but the biggest “pizza exchange” was make by Canadian ATC facilities throughout Canada sending boxes of pizza to their U.S. counterparts. 

One such gracious act came from across the Canadian border, when The Canadian Air Traffic Control Association units in Gander, N.L., and Moncton, N.B. decided to order pizzas for their American counterparts down in the control center on Long Island. It wasn’t just a geographic formula that determined what Canadian ATC group tied into an American ATC. The Edmonton tower decided to send their pizzas to Houston; partners in allied oil and gas industries. 

Said one Canadian ATC supervisor, “Aviation is a really tight-knit group of people, it’s like a family,” he added, as reported by CBC. “And plus, it goes against the whole rhetoric here that we’re talking about because it’s an international boundary!”

With all the deserved praise to our Canadian friends, let’s not forget the Irish. On Sunday, January 22nd, members of the Irish Air Traffic Controllers Association sent a half dozen pies from Borelli’s in East Meadow to staff at New York Terminal Radar Approach Control in Westbury.

The New York Area Airport local vendors and corporations were their usual generous selves in their response; and I will require ten pages to list all the individual acts of kindness. Allow me to mention a few and aviation’s thank you for your generosity.

The 7-Eleven at JFK Airport extended federal workers house accounts allowing them to make purchases with the promise of payment when they receive their paychecks.

“It must be very difficult for the hard-working employees at JFK that keep us safe to go through their daily lives not knowing when they will get paid,” said George AbiZeid, president of JFK Travel Plaza.

Under the terms of the program, federal workers can show their government-issued ID and sign the receipt. They can settle their outstanding balance at a later date once the shutdown ends and they receive their paycheck.

A number of northern Jersey restaurants are helping out, including Montclair bakery the Little Daisy Bake Shop, which is offering free baked goods every Sunday from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m.; Westwood’s Downtown Dhaba is serving free lunch; and Garfield’s Steve’s Burgers will provide free cheeseburgers and fries all day. 

From Newsday Business Blog of January 22nd, comes this information about how Long Island businesses chipped in to assist federal airport workers. 

A number of Long Island businesses wanting to ease the pain of those affected by the government shutdown are offering freebies to furloughed employees. Many of them are announcing the specials on their company social media pages. 

Family-owned Del Fiore Italian Market, a 50-year-old business in Rocky Point, offered a box of “fresh cheese ravioli, a quart of meat or marinara sauce, and a loaf of bread” to workers going without pay.

Camille Pabon, who co-owns Del Fiore along with her sister, Lorian Prince, posted a message on the business’ Facebook page informing followers of the offer. The post was shared more than 2,000 times. “The response was truly overwhelming,” Pabon said Friday. “It’s incredible to see how many people actually need the help.” Pabon, who said the boxes the sisters gave to furloughed employees carried $18 worth of food, said the gesture was born out of the family’s desire to pay it forward. 

“When times get rough, we turn to food,” she said. “For us, there’s nothing like a warm plate of ravioli to help make things a little better.” 

At Sip This coffee shop in Valley Stream, furloughed employees can sip on free coffee or tea every day for the duration of the shutdown. Sip This co-owners Stephanie Pontilla and David Sabatino said they wanted to do something special to show their support to the unpaid workers. 

“We’re so close to the airport [JFK] and know many of those affected by the shutdown may be in this area so we wanted to do something nice for them,” said Pontilla, adding that about a dozen employees had come in for the free treat. “Most have walked in shy,” she said. “But left thankful.”

Democrats Squash Attempt to Pay Federal Employees During Shutdown  

I’m sure we have all heard of House Resolution 28. (HR 28) There was an attempt to change the bill’s application date thereby allowing federal employees to continue receiving paychecks.  

All Republican House members and six Democrats voted yea on the bill but that was not enough to revise it to make the salary payments. This action is called a “motion to recommit.” Basically, it’s one last chance for members to debate and change a bill before a final vote.

In this case, Rep. Kay Granger (R-Texas) wanted to change the bill’s date from Feb. 28 to Jan. 15. “My resolution will allow employees to get the paychecks they recently missed,” said Rep. Granger during a hearing on the measure. “It provides relief for some employees while we wait for Democrats to come to the negotiating table. We need to start working on legislation that can be enacted into law.” Immediately afterwards, Rep. Nita M. Lowey (D-New York) spoke out against the amendment because it wouldn’t end the shutdown, arguing for H.R. 28 to stay as-is.

Rep. Granger’s amendment failed, and on Jan. 23, the House passed H.R. 28 with Feb. 28 as the date.

The resolution that passed without authorization to pay Federal Employees can be found at www.congress.gov/bill/116th-congress/house-joint-resolution/28  

The Impact On the Aviation Industry and Travelers

The aviation industry was up in arms about the shutdown since there are safety implications to consider with several agencies including the FAA and the TSA. The National Air Transportation Association (NATA) and numerous aviation groups sent a joint letter to President Trump and Congressional leaders outlining the negative effects of the government shutdown on the industry, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and Department of Homeland Security (DHS). 

“Civil aviation supports more than 7 percent of the U.S. gross domestic product (GDP) and $1.5 trillion of economic impact, creating over 11.5 million jobs, but this shutdown is hampering our ability to function effectively,” the letter notes. The groups highlight that the partial shutdown has already inflicted real damage to our nation’s aviation system and the impacts will only worsen over time. “We urge you to act quickly to resolve these issues,” the letter concludes.

At DHS, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) personnel worked without pay, resulting in working capacity issues and a risk of decreased safety at our nation’s airports and border checkpoints. CBP’s Global Entry enrollment program has stopped, and a lack of resources is resulting in employees’ ability to work at CBP-controlled areas as airports. 

At the conclusion of his address Trump said; “If we don’t get a fair deal from Congress, the government will either shutdown on February 15th again or I will use the powers afforded to me under the laws and the Constitution of the United States to address this emergency. We will have great security,” he concluded before leaving the podium without taking questions.

Final Thoughts  

The Shutdown magnifies a problem with powerful ramifications both positive and negative whichever side of the issue you have taken.

Another mass migration is building in Honduras with 12,000 people already in the Caravan. This will add to the prior caravan of 10,000 now awaiting action on their status and living in sub-standard conditions in the desert. Our government needs to protect our border, by whatever means necessary. And if the vaunted border technology that we were told would stop illegal entry of the 12 million new migrants from entering over the past decade, what will?  That is the real question facing our politicians. 

As the national debate over immigration reform began, a GOP-leaning advocacy group circulated talking points for Republicans. Among them: Don’t mention Ronald Reagan.

The unusual warning to party faithful reflects the hangover Reagan left over immigration reform in 1986 by granting amnesty to nearly 3 million illegal immigrants. The Immigration Reform and Control Act* was pitched as a get-tough moment, with sanctions on employers and beefed-up border control. But it was largely a failure because the amnesty provisions were enacted first, and then the so-called remedies to close the border were never enacted by congress.   

The law gave birth to “amnesty” as a slur, and unfulfilled promises about the border sowed distrust between our political parties that lasts even today; more than thirty years later. It is the engine that drives the “border-first” mentality, even as the government has made strides with security. That is the main reason why the Republicans will never sign up for a “lets pass the budget and then talk.” They do not believe that positive action will be taken after the government re-opens.

 *Click here for more info on the Immigration and Reform Act

Joseph Alba
Mr. Alba was previously Editor of the Airport Press for 12 years covering both local as well as global aviation news. Prior to this, Mr. Alba had Executive positions in Systems Engineering and Marketing with IBM World Trade, and had foreign assignments in the Far East and Latin America earning three Outstanding Achievement Awards.Mr. Alba also directed a new function dealing with Alternate Fuels for Public Service Electric & Gas company in New Jersey and founded a Natural Gas Vehicle Consortium consisting of car company executives and fleet owners, and NGV suppliers in New Jersey. Mr. Alba was a founding partner of ATA, an IT Consulting company which is still active in Central and South America. After leaving the armed forces, Mr. Alba’s initial employee was the U.S. Defense Department as an analyst.

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