The decline of our democracy in the face of furloughed federal workers

Last week marked the beginning of the second month of the longest government shutdown in American history.

The standstill hinges on President Donald Trump’s most prominent campaign promise: a $5.7 billion dollar and 2,000-miles-long border wall dividing the United States and Mexico. House Democrats, accompanied by a few Republicans, refused to approve billions for the wall that they find “ineffective and expensive.” In retaliation, Trump has refused to approve funding legislation without the wall’s allowance, partially shutting down the government. As we push through day 31 of the government shutdown, the paychecks of approximately 800,000 federal workers are being held hostage. The amount of workers facing an economic crisis is nearly equivalent to San Francisco’s population.

The federal workers affected by the shutdown are crucial employees to American safety. According to the New York Times, our airports, food and security are at high risk. For example, a union that represents Transportation Security Administration officers says that some officers have quit due to financial hardship. Air traffic controllers are calling out, leaving the safety of fliers at risk. Tens of thousands of law enforcement personnel are working without pay. Workers at the FBI, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Bureau of Prisons, Customs and Border Protection, the Coast Guard and the Secret Service have resorted to food banks. The Food and Drug Administration has stopped inspecting seafood, vegetables and “other foods at high risk of contamination.”

The aforementioned oversights demonstrate the risk we face as a nation. The $5.7 billion dollar, 2,000-miles-long border wall is a symbol of President Trump’s ego. Stopping short of declaring a national emergency on the southern border to bypass Congress and build the wall is a symbol of our dying democracy.

In her first speech on the House floor, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez (D-NY) told a story about her constituent, Yahi Obed. Obed is a Yemeni immigrant raised in the Bronx who had a childhood dream of pursuing a career in aviation. Obed’s childhood dream has been a reality for the past 14 years, where he’s been an air traffic control supervisor at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York City. Last week, Obed missed his first paycheck of the new year. He has two children, a monthly mortgage and responsibility for thousands of flyers in one of the busiest airports in the United States and in the world. Obed is just one of 800,000 of people facing economic worries, distraction and the liability of thousands, if not, millions, of everyday Americans.

Alexandria Ocasio Cortez finished her speech by saying that this shutdown is “not about the wall. The truth is, this shutdown is about the erosion of American democracy and the subversion of our most basic governmental norms.”

Last week, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell blocked the second House bill to reopen the government. President Trump has blamed House Democrats for the shutdown, despite threatening that he could keep the “shutdown going for months, or even years.”

Failure to compromise will continue crippling the lives of hundreds of thousands of federal workers. American lives are at risk. Bipartisanship will face an even further decline. And President Trump will keep gas lighting the American public over the reality of these implications.

As the government shutdown looms on, here are 5 ways you can help furloughed federal workers: donate to a food pantry, donate to repair national parks, support businesses helping furloughed workers, search in your area local fundraisers and most importantly, call your senators and representatives.

For District 27, University of Miami’s district, you can call Rep. Donna Shalala at (305) 668-2285. Her D.C. office phone number is (202) 225-3931. For all other districts, search on the official House of Representatives website.

You can contact Senator Marco Rubio at (202) 224-3041 and Senator Rick Scott at (202) 224-5274. For all other states, you can search on the official United States Senate website.

Daniela Perez is a junior majoring in journalism and political science.