U.S. officials at the southern border with Mexico are also concerned about a possible government shutdown, warning that a shortage of federal workers could lead to a "catastrophic situation" in a region already struggling to cope with the surge in migrant crossings, Time magazine reported Monday.
"It's totally different than the rest of the country. We are at the border," Victor Treviño, the mayor of the city of Laredo, Texas, told Time magazine, explaining that "three or four days [without federal employees] will take everything out of operation. It would cause devastation."
While House Republicans remain elusive to approve funding for government operations, with a group from the party's most conservative wing demanding more spending cuts, four million federal workers fear losing their paychecks after Sept. 30.
Migrants cross the Rio Grande in Mexico's Piedras Negras region to Eagle Pass, Texas, on Sept. 22, 2023.Associated Press
The current situation on the border with Mexico could also be an obstacle to reaching an agreement and, if it is not achieved, ironically it would only worsen the situation.
Some border cities like Eagle Pass have already declared a state of emergency. An estimated 6,000 migrants arrived there in two days after crossing from Mexico.
During the spring, the number of people crossing the border dropped considerably, but those numbers increased during the summer and already double the 4,900 irregular crossings in April, the magazine reported.
"We set a new record of 11,000 people [crossing] illegally," House Speaker Kevin McCarthy said, commenting on what measures would be included in the Republicans' spending proposal to secure the border. "Something has to change," he said, as quoted by Time.
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McCarthy said Tuesday that it's "very important" to have a meeting with President Joe Biden to avoid a government shutdown and emphasize the need to pass the GOP's border security package.
"Why don't we make a deal with the president?" the California Republican told reporters who asked him why he's unwilling to strike a deal with congressional Democrats this week on a short-term funding bill to keep the government open.
McCarthy suggested that Biden could resolve the crisis at the southern border — a major sticking point for Republicans in shutdown talks — unilaterally.
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"Look, all the president has to do [is] take. It has changed all policies on the border. You can change them [again]," McCarthy said. "We can keep government open and finish the work we've started."
Asked specifically if he was requesting a meeting with Biden, McCarthy replied, "I think it would be very important to have a meeting with the president to resolve that issue."
Funds in exchange for border security
Calls for increased border security have become more common in recent weeks as crossings have increased and, in the face of a possible government shutdown, have made the issue high on the agenda of congressional Republicans.
That has led some Republicans to threaten a government shutdown unless funding includes measures to tighten the border with Mexico. That proposal to fund the government in exchange for measures to tighten up border security, Time reported, is unlikely to pass in the Democratic-controlled Senate.
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If Republicans promote border security measures that Democrats oppose funding, the overall immigration crisis could be exacerbated.
According to Rep. Henry Cuellar, a South Texas Democrat on the Appropriations Committee, the government shutdown would have a significant impact on border security overall, underscoring the fact that Border Patrol agents would have to work without pay.
I find it very ironic that Republicans are threatening a shutdown when this is going to weaken [border security] by taking authorities and funding, including contractors, away from the border," Cuellar said, as quoted by Time.
For Rep. Joaquin Castro, a Texas Democrat who represents the San Antonio area, thousands of members of the armed forces in his district would have to work without pay if the government shuts down, which, he explained, would put a burden on military families.
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"My office has already received calls from voters worried about making ends meet," he was quoted as saying by Time. "I hope a cool head prevails in the Republican Party to keep the government open."
Laredo Mayor Treviño said he was especially concerned about the downsizing of staff at his city's migrant processing center, which he said processes about 1,000 people daily.
"All these immigrants could end up on the street ... They have young children, there are families, we can't turn our backs on them," he said, quoted by Time.
Treviño also worries that, depending on how long unpaid officials can survive, the processing office may eventually halt their work. "People have to feed their families and pay their debts."
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He added that, in the case of the security risk, "there is always the danger of illegal cartel activities [...], smuggling and things of that kind [...] If there is no security, then those activities are going to increase tremendously."
But for Doris Meissner, a senior fellow at the Migration Policy Institute, "the government shutdown shouldn't be as noticeable" in border towns because law enforcement members are typically exempt from government shutdowns.