TAMPA — U.S. Reps. Kathy Castor and Charlie Crist on Tuesday rejected President Donald Trump’s offer to reopen the government in exchange for temporary protection for undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children.
However, the two Tampa Bay area Democrats sounded more willing to consider a deal on immigration if Trump agreed to provide a pathway to citizenship for those children.
“That would be a meaningful way to negotiate,” Castor said, later adding: “I predict that will pass.”
Castor and Crist spoke at Tampa International Airport just before flying back to Washington, where House Democrats plan to vote on more bills to reopen the government after 32 days of a partial shutdown. There, they were flanked by representatives for federal airport workers and other government employees who are working without being paid.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will introduce a bill to end the shut down on the terms set by the White House: trade protections for DREAMers for Trump’s $5.7 billion wall and border security proposal.
Castor called the bill “political cover” and not a serious offer. The status of DREAMers are only uncertain because Trump rescinded the protections that President Barack Obama approved while in office, the Tampa Democrat noted.
“The problem is the president has been all over the map on this,” Castor said. “One day he’s for that deal, the next day no, he’s calling people names. Then he’s shutting down the government. ... It’s very difficult to negotiate with someone that is so unpredictable.”
Democrats have rejected Trump’s offer putting McConnell’s bill in peril of the 60 votes needed to pass. If it does somehow move through the Senate, Crist said the Democratic majority in the House may take it up but amend it to include a path for citizenship and other immigration measures Democrats want in a compromise.
But Crist, of St. Petersburg, said those negotiations don’t need to take place during a shutdown and encouraged Trump to reopen the government while a compromise on immigration and border security is discussed.
“It’s not productive to hold these people hostage in the meantime,” Crist said, referring to the federal workers behind him. “You don’t have to do that. That’s cruel.”
About 800,000 federal employees, including Transportation Security Administration and Air Traffic Control workers, are working without pay and many more are waiting at home.
Tampa International Airport has so far avoided delays from security employees calling out due to the shutdown, but representatives for federal union employees said their members are struggling to pay credit card bills, mortgages and medical bills.
If the shutdown continues into Florida’s Spring Break season and workers continue to go unpaid, it could bring trouble for travelers and create national security risks, union representatives said.
“We’re the wall,” said Ralph Velez, a transportations security officer at Orlando’s airport and chief steward for American Federation of Government Employees Local 556. “The wall is not a physical barrier. It is flesh and bone. If we don’t come to work, we are going to have another 9/11. That’s the bottom line.”