No Wall, No Shutdown - An AAPI Perspective

On December 12, 2018 the United States government shut down. Why? Because Donald Trump was willing to hold the entire country hostage in order to get $5.7 BILLION for a wall that will benefit absolutely no one expect Trump’s divisive, anti-immigrant agenda. This move affected all communities, including the Korean and Asian Americans.

Rather than negotiating with members of Congress towards a solution that would protect all immigrants, including those in border communities, Trump opted to shut down the government for 35 days, effectively stopping essential departments like the Department of Housing/Urban Development, Education, and Agriculture, from operating. 

On Friday, January 25, 2019, Trump announced a deal that temporarily re-opened the government but at that point, the damage of the longest government shutdown in US history was already done.

Due to his antics over a wall, 800,000 federal workers went without pay for over a month. Even more cruel, a significant portion of federal employees were forced to work without pay during the shutdown. This pushed many federal employees, like TSA workers, to sleep in their cars and worry constantly about when they and their families would eat next.

Korean and Asian American communities also felt the ripple effect of the shutdown. Jean, a Korean American federal employee, expressed the “brunt” everyone experienced due to the shutdown.

Jean expressed, “no one can fully prepare for [a government shutdown]...The longer we stay shutdown, the longer it will take to catch up on all the work that needs to get done. People waiting to hear back about any immigration cases or applications already have a HUGE backlog…And it’s not just federal workers who were affected by this. Everyday people are feeling the impact of this too. Subsidized housing, federal food programs such as WIC, and other federal public benefits program… all of this was being jeopardized because of the shutdown!”

Trump is still demanding that $5.7 billion be allocated for his border wall. If the government does not give into Trump’s coercions, then Trump is willing to shutdown the government AGAIN despite the clear negative effects it had.

Mia, a disabled federal employee and Korean adoptee, makes clear how although the government should not be shut down, we cannot morally give Trump a wall in exchange.

“[Through the federal government], I receive pretty good health insurance for my disability” Mia explains. She later touched on how because of the shutdown, Mia, and disabled federal employees like her, could not access healthcare benefits she needed to live her day-to-day life due to worrying about the cost of deductibles. 

“I am always two steps away from ending up in the hospital” expressed Mia, underscoring the precarious situation she was in due to the shutdown and her lack of benefits (in fact, a few days later, Mia ended up at the ER due to health issues).

Despite these constant worries, Mia was emphatic in saying that, she cannot back a “racist monument” which attacks parts of her identity and community. She said, “Other immigrants are not as lucky as I [was with obtaining citizenship.] I cannot throw undocumented immigrants under the bus for my security. It is not ‘either, or’ it’s ‘BOTH, AND.’ I am a disabled immigrant!... This is not the American I was taught to believe in.”

We demand Trump and the government to keep the US government OPEN without jeopardizing ANY immigrant communities by funding a wasteful, racist border wall. There should not be $1 of taxpayer money spent on harming our communities, through a wall, increasing the number of ICE agents, funding more detention centers, etc.  Instead, we implore Trump and the government to allocate that money towards other actually beneficial projects. Copied below is a non-exhaustive list (courtesy of National Priorities):

With $5.7 billion, the U.S. could...

Provide quality healthcare for 1.4 million people
Increase federal aid for public education by 30%
Settle 11 times MORE refugees than in 2018
Double funding for Citizenship and immigration services

We call on the Korean and Asian American community to call your members of Congress and demand that they keep the government open, reject Trump’s request for ANY money for a border wall or increased immigration enforcement, and demand that our taxpayer dollars should be used to truly help our communities!


Written by Sam Yu, Communications Coordinator with the National Korean American Service & Education Consortium (NAKASEC). All federal employees quoted represent only themselves, not their areas of work.