Joined by a half-dozen federal workers and labor leaders at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., called on President Donald Trump on Tuesday to “end your temper tantrum” and reopen the government before any further debate on border security.
Omar spoke as the partial federal government shutdown entered its second month as Trump and Democratic leadership in Congress remained at an impasse over the president’s demand for funding to build a border wall at the U.S.-Mexico border. The freshman congresswoman signaled that the U.S. House would again vote on a bill to reopen the government this week, but Trump has not relented on his vow to not sign legislation that doesn’t allocate $5.7 billion for the wall’s construction.
“It is our position that we cannot start to negotiate immigration policies or the further protection of our borders unless we open the government first,” Omar said. “So it’s a two-step: the president needs to work with us first in reopening the government and then we can all come to the table to have a deeper conversation about the road forward.”
Omar spoke at the site of some of the nation’s longest security lines during the busy holiday travel weekend. Travelers were getting through the lines much quicker on Tuesday, but Transportation Security Administration screeners were still feeling a pinch of a different kind.
Neal Gosman, treasurer of the local 899 Transportation Security Officers in Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, said a food shelf has since been organized inside the airport’s Humphrey Terminal and urged the public to contribute to their local food banks.
“This is not right … that we should have to resort to this when we are supposedly paid federal employees doing our job,” said Gosman, who has worked at the airport for 15 years.
Workers from local offices for the federal Housing and Urban Development and Equal Employment and Opportunity Commission also warned of further side effects to services relied upon by millions of Americans, many of whom are living below the poverty line and rely on federally funded services.
“When we are willing to put the lives of our people at risk for an inanimate object we have failed as a people and as a nation,” said Darian Ziegler, of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Omar organized the press event days after Trump proposed a compromise that included protections for recipients of the federal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals – undocumented immigrants brought to the country as children, commonly referred to as Dreamers. It was an offer she swiftly rejected on Tuesday.
“The president thinks he can use DACA recipients whose status is only threatened because of him as pawns in his quest to build a xenophobic and racist wall that is designed to keep immigrants out of this country,” Omar said. “He thinks he can hold the salaries of hundreds of thousands of federal workers hostage to build this symbol of hate. We here say no way.”
Yet an end was not in sight to a stalemate that now has many federal workers on the verge of missing a second paycheck. At the Minneapolis office of the U.S. Equal Employment and Opportunity Commission, Acting Director Nick Pladson said “almost everyone” has filed for unemployment benefits.
“Everyone in my office has family,” Pladson said. “The ordinary circumstances of life continue despite not getting a paycheck.”