Sanctuary State Politics: Government Shutdown By Nicky Riordan
This series analyzes the nuanced dynamics of immigration policy and ideology across California following the state legislature adopting various protections for immigrants in late 2017 making California the first "sanctuary state."
Following devastating Congressional midterm losses across the country and the state of California, the Trump Administration is doubling down on attempts to reinvigorate his base on immigration policy and the border wall debate. A key winning issue in 2016, the border wall is now being used as fodder to threaten another government shutdown if President Trump doesn’t receive his requested $5 billion toward construction.
Momentum, however, is not entirely on his side. Passion is starting to run hot once again on immigration issues, as became clear when President Trump, Vice President Mike Pence, and the Democratic leaders in Congress met last week to discuss options to avoid the pending government shutdown.
Each side leveraged the public opportunity to appeal to their base on immigration issues, including House Democratic leader and California representative Nancy Pelosi. Pelosi is no stranger to the staggering Republican losses in California in November, and didn’t waste an opportunity to highlight the problems President Trump is creating for conservatives in blue states and beyond. In a recent USA Today/Suffolk University Poll, Americans nationwide expressed that by 2-1 they would blame President Trump for a government shutdown, and 54 percent polled said they oppose a shutdown over border wall funding.
Moreover, post-election analyses point to a worse situation than previously thought for Republicans in California due to guilt by association on issues like immigration. A movement toward a third party for Republican deflectors is being discussed, and the party now has its lowest level of representation across local governments in the state as well. Newly elected Democrats outnumber Republicans by 2 to 1, state party officials are struggling to find people to fill leadership positions following the election, and strategists are pushing for more outreach to Hispanic voters and outright denunciations of the President on issues like immigration.
Meanwhile, in Southern California, newly elected Democratic Mayor Paul McNamara was sworn in beside a mariachi band, proclaiming a new era of leadership for the city of Escondido. McNamara outright challenged Republican incumbent Sam Abed - a strong supporter of the border wall and fierce opponent of California’s sanctuary city laws - by running a campaign tailored to the community, where over 51 percent of residents identify as Hispanic or Latino.
Escalating tensions at the border are adding to the conversation as well, with recent news reports of a migrant child dying in CBP custody and various activists making allegations of human rights violations and negligence. The headlines are often problematic for the federal government, and private money is pouring into nonprofits addressing the border crisis. Where Democrats see an opportunity to take advantage of the toxic environment around immigration policy and gain support from more moderate wings of the Republican party, President Trump finds validation for his policies.
It is unclear if either side will budge before Friday or allow a government shutdown to occur, but evidence suggests that the high stakes for Republicans in this debate are a gamble not worth taking. Democratic leaders in Congress appear to feel confident that November wins bolster their argument against wall funding, and recent polling affirms it. Congressional Republicans are reticent to take a vote on wall funding, despite Trump’s claims to the contrary. And as always, President Trump and his advisers appear confident in their assessment that taking risks to fire up the base is still the best path forward, despite the failure of this strategy in the midterms.
Nicky Riordan (@nriordan120), Political Analyst, The Utica College Center of Public Affairs and Election Research, reporting from California