A few days ago, I would have asked the question who is Cardi B? Now, she’s established herself in the firmament of Trump-busters. In an expletive laced commentary about Trump’s wall-induced government shutdown, Cardi B instagrammed a video reprimand saying, essentially, “Now I don’t wanna hear y’all talking ‘bout, ‘oh, but Obama shutdown the government for 17 days’ … yeah, for healthcare so your grandma could check her blood pressure and you can go check that p***y at the gynecologist with no problem.”
With little concern for polite speak, Cardi B laid out the problem in a few pithy words. What is this nation so caught up about? A wall? Shouldn’t we be arguing healthcare, or environment or guns or criminal justice? What’s so worthwhile about the wall?
Even the conservative Wall Street Journal’s editorial board dismissed the rationale for wall spending: “Mr. Trump is wrong that this [the wall] will magically reduce drug traffic or illegal crossings … The best solution for illegal crossings is a legal system that gives migrants the chance to move back and forth depending on the needs of the U.S. economy.”
In the meantime, as the government shutdown crosses into its second month, the current Congress sets the record of being the most uncompromising in America’s history.
The consequences of the government shutdown are growing beyond the 800,000 federal workers who are being deprived of their paychecks.
The Food and Drug Administration posted a statement on its website accounting for any slip ups that might happen due to furloughed staff. “Our work protects the food that families feed their children and pets and ensures the effectiveness of the medicine they need, all of which contribute to improving the health and welfare of Americans. All our work is important, but only some of our work is permitted to continue during a lapse in funding.”
San Francisco’s Human Services Agency issued an advisory informing CalFresh recipients that their benefits were being issued early. CalFresh is California’s food stamp program and 50,000 low-income residents in The City currently receive CalFresh benefits. Households were cautioned to “plan their food budgets wisely and to be judicious in spending February benefits to ensure that the funds will last and serve their needs through the end of the month.”
In addition to long security lines at several airports, a number of parks and recreation areas are closed, the home-buying process is more protracted, school lunches are being rationed and seniors and low-income families are dealing with rental assistance programs that are in jeopardy.
Cardi B urged people to care about the shutdown, even if “y’all don’t work for the government or y’all probably don’t even have a job.” In her fresh, impudent manner, the pop idol summarized, “Our country is in a hell hole right now all for a wall and we really need to take this seriously.”
She is right. In the hope of preventing other people from coming into America, we’re turning on our own people in America.
While Cardi B makes some valid points, it is exactly the Cardi B-type unchecked, unfiltered, unedited public viewpoints on social media that supply a regular diet of misinformation about immigrants and the wall.
With exceptions now making the general case, immigrants have been called all manner of names, including drug-runners, job-stealers, criminals, rapists, human-traffickers and more in an effort to craft a convenient public relations narrative to justify the wall.
At a Los Angeles county media briefing that I attended on January 18, Barbara Ferrer, director of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, said that when it comes to health care, she feels “haunted” by the false narratives that are proliferating. “Fifty-two percent really believe that immigrants burden our country with health care costs.” In fact, she explained,
immigrants have a much higher rate of out-of-pocket expenses.
The New York Times editorial board took down another myth around immigration this week, “Last year, many business owners, in both high-tech and low-tech areas, complained that they didn’t have enough workers. We need more immigrants, not fewer.”
Mr. Trump’s wall is not an irrefutable truth. The wall cannot solve all our immigration woes. It might turn away a few people, but not all. It might control the flow of illegal goods, but not all.
The wall is a campaign promise that’s fast becoming an inconvenience. Sure, we need a wall, but must it be at the expense of our institutions, livelihoods and fellow-feeling?
To quote our rapper celebrity once again, “I feel like we need to take some action. I don’t know what type of action, ’cause this is not what I do, but I’m scared.”
Jaya Padmanabhan’s guest column runs biweekly in the SF Examiner. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @jayapadmanabhan