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From the Desk of Rosanna Berardi: The Government Shutdown

Late last week, the federal government shut down. While this isn’t completely out of the norm, what is unusual is the fact that the controversy focused on our U.S. immigration system. President Trump’s presidential campaign and first year of office focused heavily on comprehensive immigration reform. The Immigration and Nationality Act hasn’t been formally amended since 1996 and the current system is antiquated. We have over 30 million illegals in the U.S. We have massive labor shortages in the high-tech and medical industries. We have 800,000 “Dreamers” whose parents brought them to the U.S. as illegal children. What’s an administration to do?

This past year has seen many highs and lows on the immigration front. We’ve seen the controversial Travel Ban, which initially caused chaos in the nation’s airports. We’ve seen the federal district courts kick around the Travel Ban and the U.S. Supreme Court quietly commenting on it. Most recently, we’ve seen the Trump Administration rescind “DACA” and give Congress until March 2018 to come up with a replacement law/program for 800,000 “Dreamers.”

The recent shutdown focused on the “Dreamers.” What should the U.S. do with 800,000 people who technically broke a federal immigration law, but maybe through no fault of their own? The Trump Administration has hinted towards legalizing the Dreamers but not allowing chain migration, which is the ability for the Dreamers to sponsor their family members for U.S. immigration status. The Democratic party wouldn’t agree with this concept and as such, the federal government shut down.

What’s interesting is that the shutdown only lasted 60 hours. It appears that both parties were pressured by their constituents to reopen the government and were reminded that many Americans did not support a shutdown over illegal immigration. Both sides acquiesced and the government is now open. 

So what does this mean for DACA and comprehensive immigration reform? Congress has two pressing deadlines: February 8th and March 5th to act on DACA. If the past is any indication of the future, these short deadlines won’t result in any major movement by either party. DACA is a political hot-button and many Democrats are up for reelection in November in states that President Trump easily won in the last presidential election.  The Republicans are also under scrutiny by their base for offering to legalize illegal aliens. 

The national and international spotlight is on our U.S. immigration system. The Dreamers, U.S. corporations, middle America and the rest of the world is watching Congress to see how this messy issue will be addressed. With short deadlines on the horizon, this political football will be tossed around and around. We can only hope that there is a meaningful resolution to the DACA crisis and hopefully a longer term comprehensive immigration law solution.