Immigration Debate and the Government Shutdown

January 9, 2019
Lacy Broemel, Refugee and Immigration Policy Advisor, The Office of Government Relations

As the partial government shutdown continues into its third week, we wanted to share some information about the cause of the shutdown, the implications, and to provide some context on where we as a Church stand on immigration and border security.

The President has requested more than $5 billion dollars for the construction of an expanded physical border wall along our southern border. At this point, Congress is unwilling to appropriate that level of funding for the construction of such a barrier. Rather than passing appropriations bills that keep the government open while Congress and the Administration debate border security measures, much of the federal government is shutdown, causing great hardship for thousands of federal workers, their communities, and undermining important federally funded initiatives, such as scientific research.

Photo: Lynette Wilson/Episcopal News Service 

To ensure U.S. border security, many experts argue that an expanded physical wall would not be feasible or effective, and indeed, there is already a wall or type of fencing along 654 miles of the 1,933 miles along our southern border. The areas that do not have a barrier are either geographically prohibitive to a wall or are on private land. While we are seeing a large number of families seeking asylum at our southern border in recent months, total border crossings are at an all-time low. The U.S. has existing laws which grant asylum seekers legal rights, and an existing enforcement and judicial system to evaluate their claims.

The Episcopal Church, through its official policies, recognizes the legitimate need to protect borders and address security threats. At the same time, the Church urges that nations should uphold their commitments and legal obligations to respect the rights and dignity of legal asylum applicants. 

The U.S. does not need to employ increased militarization of the border in response to migrants seeking to exercise their legal rights under U.S. law. The southern border is a dynamic place that offers opportunity for collaboration and exchange as people cross the border every day to go to work, go shopping, or take their children to school. We urge our elected officials to begin a reasoned debate about appropriate border security, while recognizing the imperative that we have a humane and compassionate immigration policy.

Shutting down our government is a failure of leadership and recognition of the responsibility that comes with being an elected official. The government shutdown has far-reaching implications for our country as it impacts the livelihoods of federal employees and their families; as well as of those relying on federal support for food, housing, medical services, and more; and, the vital government services such as airport security, mortgage & student loan processing, and a wide suite of services the federal government is responsible for delivering in Native American communities.

First, the U.S. should immediately re-open the federal government, so as to not have hard-working Americans be nothing more than collateral damage over an immigration policy debate. Secondly, we urge Congress and the Administration to work together to address legitimate security needs, to ensure we carry out our legal responsibility to process asylum seekers, and treat all migrants with humanity and respect. Further, we must look at how U.S. policies can address root causes and help alleviate the conditions that drive forced migration in Central and South America.

The Episcopal Church urges the federal government to invest in alternatives to detention that are less costly and more compassionate, uphold due process and our legal obligations to those seeking asylum, invest in modernizing our ports of entry, and increase oversight and accountability in order to enhance efficiency at our border. Such comprehensive solutions will allow the U.S. to uphold its highest ideals of being a beacon of freedom for all while also addressing human needs and enhancing opportunities for the future.

Please call your members of Congress to urge them to fund the government immediately, and ask for a way forward on immigration policy.

Call (1-800-826-3688) to speak with your Senators and Representative. Be sure to call back to speak with each person representing you.