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Editorial Past time for shutdown to end

January 9, 2019

Nearly three weeks in and with no sign of a solution in sight, the partial federal government shutdown is seriously affecting people’s lives, nationally and in the state of Connecticut.

The U.S. Coast Guard, which has 500 active duty officers in New Haven and New London, is unable to inspect all cargo ships headed into state waters for safety violations, or to enforce fishing laws.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture, which funds federal nutrition programs including school lunches and food stamps, says it can fund these programs through the end of the month, but February could be another story.

Even local breweries, who have provided a jolt to an otherwise stagnant state economy in recent years, say they are being held back by the shutdown, with the introduction of new labels on hold until the federal government gets back to work. “It’s anti-small business,” says one brewer, accurately.

All this is happening over a crisis that isn’t really a crisis and a proposed solution that wouldn’t really solve anything.

Illegal crossings of the U.S.-Mexican border are down significantly, with about one-fourth as many people apprehended last year compared to 2000. This comes at a time when the border is more secure, and more militarized, than ever before.

Most immigrants who are unauthorized to be in this country have overstayed visas; relatively few got in by sneaking across borders. Illegal drugs — and legal ones — take a terrible toll on American communities, but there is no reason to think closing the southern border would end that crisis. And the idea that terrorists are surreptitiously crossing from Mexico has been thoroughly debunked.

But even if none of that were true, a physical wall across 1,500-plus miles of border would be untenable and ineffective. Much of the border is already fenced, and what isn’t tends to be in wilderness, on private land or along the Rio Grande. None are legitimate options for building a concrete wall as envisioned by the president, or even the steel-slatted alternative he has offered up in recent weeks.

Congress, including most Republicans, voted just weeks ago to keep the government open without funding for a border wall. The president was about to sign it into law when he changed his mind, likely prodded by conservative media personalities. This is no way to run a government.

The new Congress, which includes a Democratic majority in the House along with a Senate still run by Republicans, must once again vote to reopen the government with all its agencies fully funded, but without a dime to pay for a border wall. If the president vetoes the measure, Congress should override his veto. This is not just about President Trump, but about Senate Republicans, who have the power to reopen the government without him.

There are debates to be had about immigration, about government funding and border security. None of that is possible while the very functioning of the government is held hostage. The shutdown must end now.

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