A resident flips his finger at a Donald Trump supporter as she marches through a neighborhood near a Border Patrol station on January 12 2019 in San Ysidro, California. Picture: GETTY IMAGES/AFP/SANDY HUFFAKER
A resident flips his finger at a Donald Trump supporter as she marches through a neighborhood near a Border Patrol station on January 12 2019 in San Ysidro, California. Picture: GETTY IMAGES/AFP/SANDY HUFFAKER

Washington — US President Donald Trump’s bid to build a US-Mexico border wall and end a month-long partial government shutdown suffered a blow on Tuesday when the US supreme court, for now, left in place a programme protecting young illegal immigrants from deportation.

The border wall, government funding and “Dreamer” immigrants have become intertwined in an epic Washington battle being waged by the Republican president and Democrats in Congress. The supreme court ruling deprives Trump of a key bargaining chip.

Amid this battle, an array of government agencies have not been fully operating since December 22 and 800,000 federal employees are not being paid.

On Saturday, Trump proposed ending the government shutdown by fully funding the one quarter of US agencies that are affected. In return, he would get $5.7bn towards building a south-western border wall that Democrats oppose. Trump is also offering to restore temporary protections for Dreamer immigrants who were brought illegally into the US as minors.

In 2017, Trump moved to end the Dreamers’ protections, triggering a court battle.

Democrats promptly rejected Trump’s plan as insufficient, warning they will not trade a temporary restoration of the immigrants’ protections in return for a permanent border wall that they view as ineffective.

But with the supreme court refusing, at least during this term, to consider an administration appeal of lower court rulings allowing continued temporary protections for the immigrant youths, Trump may have lost his main negotiating point.

Democrats ... will also end the partial shutdown of agencies including the departments of justice, homeland security, agriculture, commerce, labour and interior

Instead, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (Daca) programme established by then-president Barack Obama in 2012 lives on with or without approval by Congress.

Getting started

Before the court’s announcement, US lawmakers were poised this week to take up competing remedies for ending the partial government shutdown, which has interrupted scores of vital federal services.

Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell will introduce Trump’s offer later on Tuesday, according to an aide. But it was unclear whether the Senate would vote on it this week.

Democrats in the House of Representatives, meanwhile, will also end the partial shutdown of agencies including the departments of justice, homeland security, agriculture, commerce, labour and interior. While their legislation will contain new border security money, there will  be nothing for a wall.

Once the government re-opens, Democrats said, they will negotiate with Trump on further border security ideas.

Representative Jim Clyburn, the number three House Democrat, welcomed any effort by the Republican-led Senate to debate and vote on legislation to re-open the government following that chamber’s month-long abstention. “This gets us started,” Clyburn told MSNBC in an interview.

There are no guarantees that votes by Congress this week actually will break the impasse, as Trump holds firm on his $5.7bn  demand and Democrats say they will not talk about it until the government is re-opened.

Many federal employees and contractors are turning to unemployment assistance, food banks and other support as the shutdown enters its second month. Others have begun looking for new jobs.

US airport security officer absences rose to a record high over the weekend with some airports experiencing longer wait times and at least one major East Coast airport closing one security checkpoint.

Federal courts will soon exhaust whatever funds they have been operating on since December 22. Trash has piled up at some national parks; the collection of data vital to farmers, investors and others has been disrupted; and the ripple effects of the shutdown threaten to damage a US economy that had been humming for several years.

The funding stand-off comes at a time when fears of a global recession are rising as the blockbuster Chinese economy slows.

Reuters