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Immigrants, Minorities, Poor Feel Sting of Shutdown

October 3, 2013 7:09 pm Leave a comment By  | Via , , , , A+ / A-
Battlefield of Saratoga National Historical Park, along with national parks across the country, is closed due to the shutdown of the government. (Photo by Sean Kelleher via the National Parks Conservation Association, Creative Commons license)

The Battlefield of Saratoga National Historical Park, along with national parks across the country, is closed due to the shutdown of the government. (Photo by Sean Kelleher via the National Parks Conservation Association, Creative Commons license)

The impact of the federal government shutdown on communities of color, immigrants, families living in poverty, Native Americans and the non-insured has been the focus of the coverage in the ethnic and community press this week after all non-essential federal services were suspended on October 1.

An article by Imara Jones for Colorlines reports that the impact of the shutdown depends on how long it stays in effect. If it continues for weeks or more, already marginalized communities will especially feel the sting. The following is her list of the forecast if the Congressional stalemate continues.

Health needs delayed: The 110 million Americans already in Medicare —the government health program for the elderly— and Medicaid —the federal and state partnership to provide health insurance to the working poor and their children— will continue to receive the services and treatment that they need. However new applications to these programs will be delayed until the government reopens.

Impaired ability to fight disease: The Centers for Disease Control will scale back the monitoring of the spread of infectious diseases and the National Institutes of Health will do the same for critical research into life-saving treatments until the lights come back on.

More people hungry:  The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), commonly referred to as food stamps, will continue to provide its $33 of weekly assistance to the 48 million Americans who currently receive it. However, the Women Infants and Children Program (WIC) —which covers seven million children and infants, and their mothers— will temporarily end. The program will restart once the government reopens.

Poor kids set back: Funds for the one million children in Head Start will technically expire today [October 1], but only a smattering of locations will be forced to immediately close their doors. However, more programs will run out of money and come under pressure the longer this goes on. The same is true for Title I education grants, which provide badly needed assistance to 20 million children in the nation’s poorest school districts. Also, review of new student loan and federal grant applications will be delayed.

Housing at risk:  The Federal Housing Administration, which underwrites four out of every 10 mortgages in the United States and is crucial for working families entering the housing market, will not process new home loans during an extended shutdown. Housing vouchers for the working poor and the homeless will also be at risk the longer this goes on.

More immigration delays:  Border patrols and enforcement will continue during the shutdown, but new visa and citizenship applications will be stalled until the government is back to work.

As mentioned above, the future of the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC), which helps some 9 million low-income women and children under 5 nutritional deficits, also depends on how long the shutdown goes on. Some state programs could run out of funds as soon as next week and not be able to provide participants with opportunities to buy fresh foods and infant formula.

According to El Diario-La Prensa, about 45 percent of the 9 million women, pregnant or with infant children, who depend on WIC are Latina. Another El Diario-La Prensa piece, by Cristina Loboguerrero, gives the potential WIC crisis a local angle.

In New York, where there are close to half a million participants registered in the program, each receives around $70 per month in vouchers. The most essential are those that allow for the purchase Enfamil baby formula for children with sensitive stomachs, which has a market value of $18.

The Executive Office for Immigration Review is one of the divisions of the Department of Justice functioning under limited operations.

The Executive Office for Immigration Review is one of the divisions of the Department of Justice functioning under limited operations.

In another article on Colorlines, Brentin Mock reports that while many in the Department of Justice will continue working, much of the staff in the agency’s subdivisions will not.

Among those is the Civil Rights Division, which is furloughing 71 percent of its employees, according to a copy of the Justice Department’s shutdown contingency plan.

Of the division’s 634 employees, 182 will stay on board, including 134 attorneys. Also hit: the general Civil Division with 71 percent of its 1,310 employees on furlough and the Executive Office for Immigration Review, which would lose 70 percent of its 1,339 employees.

Depending on how long the impasse lasts, the shutdown could complicate the legislative calendar and the resolve of Congress to reach an agreement on an issue that has already proven difficult: immigration reform law, reports the Los Angeles Spanish daily La Opinión in a piece published in El Diario-La Prensa.

If the government shutdown lasts two or three weeks, the danger is higher, agreed people close to the talks in Washington. October was considered crucial in the debate on immigration reform in the House of Representatives, but the discussion could still begin at the end of the month or in early November.

The museum at Fort Hamilton in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn is feeling the effects of the shutdown. (Photo from US Army Garrison at Fort Hamilton via Brooklyn Daily Eagle)

The museum at Fort Hamilton in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn is feeling the effects of the shutdown. (Photo from US Army Garrison at Fort Hamilton via Brooklyn Daily Eagle)

The shutdown has also ensnared national parks and museums, as Indian Country Today, a New York-based Native publication, portrays through a collection of photos of closed national parks from the National Parks Conservation Association.

The publication also has an article on how the shutdown could hit tribes around the country if it does not end soon. Reporter Rob Capriccioso lists the programs relevant to the community which have halt operations.

At the U.S. Department of the Interior, 2,860 of 8,143 employees focused on Indian affairs will be laid off during this shutdown. At the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) alone, the following programs will cease, according to the DOI.gov/shutdown website: management and protection of trust assets such as lease compliance and real estate transactions; federal oversight on environmental assessments, archeological clearances, and endangered species compliance; management of oil and gas leasing and compliance; timber harvest and other natural resource management operations; tribal government related activities; payment of financial assistance to needy individuals, and to vendors providing foster care and residential care for children and adults; and disbursement of tribal funds for tribal operations including responding to tribal government request.

Closer to home, Liberty Island, home to the Statue of Liberty, is among the shuttered national sites, as well as the Harbor Defense Museum on the US Army Garrison at Forth Hamilton in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, reports Brooklyn Daily Eagle‘s Paul Katinas, citing a statement on Facebook by the fort’s commanding officer, Col. Eluyn Gines. Fort Hamilton was founded in 1825 and remains the only active military base in the city.

The Harbor Defense Museum, which re-opened only last month after a lengthy shutdown for a $1.3 million renovation project, will be closed for the duration of the government shutdown, Gines reported. The museum has artifacts dating back to the Revolutionary War.

Mexican vendors near shuttered tourists sites are feeling the consequences of the shutdown from the beginning. (Photo by Maite Junco/Voices of NY)

Mexican vendors have been feeling the consequences of the shutdown from the beginning. (Photo by Voices of NY)

The fort’s commissary will also not be operating, forcing soldiers to look elsewhere for food.

Diario de México‘s takes a look at how the shutdown has already impacted New Yorkers, namely the Mexican street vendors who sell goods near the now-shuttered tourist attractions, as reported by Virginia Alvarado.

The government shutdown isn’t just jangling the nerves of American citizens, but also Mexicans who earn their living through formal and informal sales near parks and big tourist attractions such as the Statue of Liberty.

“My relatives have been calling me since very early. They say the news in Mexico is showing a very bad situation here in the U.S. And it’s true for those of us who work near South Ferry. It hit us hard because the visitors will stop coming,” said Gelacio Rosario, who sadly watched the tourists leaving when they found the facilities for visiting Ellis Island closed.

Like Rosario, Mexicans who run small businesses selling food or hot dogs, snacks or popsicles assert that the government shutdown means lean times ahead.

“Work has come to a halt for street vendors who sell mementos and souvenirs because the parks and historical monuments have closed,” Rosario said in a press release from the organization Vamos Unidos, whose members earn a living selling food and items in the street.

It is worth mentioning that throughout the entire history of the United States, the federal government has suspended its services a total of 17 times amidst a growing gap between the legislative and executive branches. The most remembered happened in 1995, under former president Bill Clinton.

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