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A pathetic moment in American history passes

The Dallas Morning News • Jan 29, 2019 at 6:30 AM

It is beyond sad that it took the longest shutdown in government history, federal workers heading to food banks, a near meltdown of the nation's air traffic control system and increasing outrage and condemnation from across the nation to end the standoff between President Donald Trump and congressional Democrats.

It's sadder still that it all seems to mean so little.

America was over this shutdown long before our political leaders were. Even the stoic and silent FBI joined the chorus crying enough. Its director, Christopher Wray, spoke for many of us when he said enough is enough, with agents not being paid and workers at the Internal Revenue Service and other agencies calling in sick.

The three-week reopening we got Friday is a paltry truce in a pathetic war, but at this pain point, we are ready to accept any national relief.

The details the president outlined in the Rose Garden will get federal workers paid and back on the job. In exchange is a promise that Congress will seriously discuss bipartisan solutions for border security. Nevermind that that was their job in the first place.

The so-called wall between the U.S. and Mexico, now whittled to steel slats at strategic points, exists in the deal only as a plaintive plea from the president.

Federal workers were treated with indifference and as pawns in this Washington game, with neither side acting as a true advocate but each claiming like an insincere stepparent to care so deeply.

We rejoice that these workers will return to paid jobs. In Texas, 6,400 federal employees filed claims for unemployment insurance, according to the Texas Workforce Commission, and more than 600 had begun receiving benefit payments. And there are countless tales of other emotional and financial suffering.

There is nothing to feel good about at the temporary close to this ugly and often childish impasse. The plan announced on Friday is close to the approach that Trump had rejected at the end of December. But we also would caution Democrats against gloating over the president's caving on wall funding, as he appeared ever more willing to offer concessions on security that could have protected vulnerable immigrants.

Trump's speech in Rose Garden was true to form, meandering and failing to measure the moment. He neither gracefully acknowledged his capitulation nor adequately explained why he was taking this step now, with so little to show in return. He continues to be tone deaf to the problems that this government shutdown has caused, threatening to shutter the government again or declare a national emergency if a deal acceptable to him can't be reached in the next three weeks. Both are unacceptable.

Lawmakers and the president must do their jobs and find a meaningful and comprehensive solution to a wide range of immigration issues. The immigration system is broken in many ways. Border security has to be improved. The so-called dreamers — the children of parents who entered the United States illegally — need legal protection. And it would benefit us all if people who entered the country illegally have a path out of the shadows.

In the next few weeks and coming months, Democrats and Republicans have to cease gridlocking over politically expedient canards that make immigration a wedge issue. Lawmakers and the president must be prepared to hammer out a compromise but that will not happen unless both sides finally demonstrate the political courage to solve the problem.

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