The president goes back to his tactic of blackmail as a way to deal with immigration issues, a tactic which has hardly brought any results.
Donald Trump returned to his favorite tactic, although it has almost never worked: blackmailing the Democrats to get their approval on heavy-handed immigration policies. The American president claimed last Sunday that he was willing to force a federal government shutdown on Oct. 1, if the Democrats refused to approve the construction of a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border and other measures to restrict illegal and irregular immigration. Republicans hold the majority of seats in the Senate, and yet they still need the votes of at least nine members of the Democratic Party to approve the budget, which greatly infuriates Trump. If a government shutdown occurred, there would be no funds for nonessential services and many public employees would cease working.
“I would be willing to ‘shut down’ government if the Democrats do not give us the votes for Border Security, which includes the Wall!” Trump tweeted from his golf club in New Jersey, where he was spending the weekend. Once again, the leader of the government requested that authorities hold immigrants who are in the U.S. without legal permission for a longer period, despite the fact that the current limits were decided by the courts, as well as suppress the visa lottery system for certain visas and instead implement a merit-based model. “We need great people coming into our Country!” Trump said. After a Saturday of surprising silence, Trump, on Sunday, came back strong on social networks with a series of incendiary tweets, reiterating how the media was “the enemy of the American People!” .
The tweet resulted in a sort of déjà vu. “Our country needs a good ‘shutdown’ in September to fix mess!” Trump tweeted in May 2017. “If we don’t change the legislation, if we don’t get rid of these loopholes where killers are allowed to come into our country and continue to kill ... if we don’t change it, let’s have a shutdown,” he said last February about the activity of Mara Salvatrucha.*
On both occasions, the Democrats refused to fund the wall, and Trump eventually yielded and signed an extension of the federal budget. In January, there was a brief three-day shutdown that corresponded with the first anniversary of the president's inauguration. On that occasion, the shutdown was forced by the Democrats after Trump and the Republicans attempted to use the legal future of the “Dreamers,” those immigrants who arrived in the U.S. as children without legal permission, as a negotiating tool. Both parties resolved the crisis with an agreement that omitted the “Dreamers’” situation.
With this shutdown threat, Trump is returning to his most isolationist instincts and ignoring the conservative sector in Congress, which is betting on extending the budget to avoid further complications. The president has revived his anti-immigration speech aimed at appeasing his most radical electoral base and revealed his frustration about not fulfilling his promise of building a border wall which, back then, he claimed America’s neighbor would pay for. But this is a tricky move, since a hypothetical shutdown at the end of the fiscal year, on Sept. 30, would take place barely five weeks before the legislative midterm elections, which will test the president, as well as determine whether or not Republicans keep control of both houses of Congress.
Trump has requested $25 billion from Congress to finish off the stretches of the border where there's no barrier. The wall became a symbol of Trump's attack on uneven immigration laws. However, all he got with the last budget was $1.6 billion for the maintenance of the existing barriers and not the construction of new ones. The Republican president is obsessed with showing his voters the progress he has made on his crusade against immigration. He already attempted to gain ground on this front last May, with his family separation policy, but he had to abandon it in June after triggering enormous controversy, even among conservative ranks.
*Editor's Note: Mara Salvatrucha, also known as MS-13, is a transnational street gang that originated in Los Angeles, California, in the 1980s. The gang later spread to many parts of the continental U.S., concentrating in a few Latino communities in Los Angeles and on Long Island. According to the U.S. Justice Department, there are about 10,000 MS-13 members in the U.S.