January 14, 2019

VIDEO: In Senate Floor Speech, Udall Shares Stories of New Mexicans Hurt by Trump Shutdown

Thousands of New Mexicans are paying the price for President Trump’s decision to hold their livelihoods and critical services hostage

VIDEO: In Senate Floor Speech, Udall Shares Stories of New Mexicans Hurt by Trump Shutdown

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Senator Tom Udall spoke on the Senate floor to highlight the devastating effects of the Trump shutdown — now the longest shutdown in American history — on families, communities and businesses across New Mexico. Udall shared the stories of countless New Mexicans who are paying the price for President Trump’s irresponsible decision to hold their livelihoods and critical services hostage. He also called on President Trump to work with Congress to end the shutdown immediately and give relief to hardworking New Mexico families who are being hit hard by the president’s reckless act of political extortion. 

At least 10,800 federal workers in New Mexico are working for federal agencies that have been shut down, and the vast majority of them are furloughed or working without pay. New Mexico was recently ranked as the state most vulnerable to the impacts of the shutdown due to its significant federal workforce and the key role the federal government plays in the state’s economy.  

Udall shared stories from countless New Mexicans whose lives have been thrown into chaos because the president has chosen to hold their paychecks hostage, including: 

— An employee with the Department of Interior, in Albuquerque, N.M., who said: “While I am not sure how much good it would do, I emailed the White House to go on record that I am not one of the Federal employees the President is touting as wanting to be out of work without a paycheck until he gets his wall. I just want to go on record . . . that no, federal employees do not want to stay out of work; we want to go back to work and get paid. This is not our fight, just his.”

— An occupational therapist with the Indian Health Service at the Gallup Indian Medical Center in northwestern New Mexico, who is working hard -- providing needed services to Native communities – but is scrambling to make ends meet due to the Trump shutdown. Though she was helping her son pay off college loans, she’s had to tell him that she can’t help right now.  She also has an elderly mother she visits in Las Cruces – but she can no longer afford to plan a trip now. Still, she wrote emphatically and in all capital letters: “I AM NOT WITH THE PRESIDENT ON THIS ISSUE.” 

— A Border Patrol Agent, from Las Cruces, N.M., who has worked for Customs and Border Protection for 18 years: “I live paycheck to paycheck. If I don't get paid the money that I earn, I AM NOT GOING TO MAKE IT! Creditors are not forgiving any debts. I am asking you to please try and help me and all federal workers get paid. I feel stressed and helpless, please help.”   

Other key excerpts from Udall’s remarks include:

— On the Trump shutdown’s devastating and outsize effects on New Mexico: “…My home state of New Mexico is one of the states most impacted. We have a large workforce in some of the federal agencies that are currently shutdown – including the Departments of Interior, Homeland Security, and Agriculture. My staff estimates, conservatively, we have at least 10,800 federal employees affected, not counting law enforcement. We are a small state. This has a big impact.”

— On how the Trump shutdown is squeezing federal contractors out of their rightful pay: “Federal contractors really feel the brunt of the shutdown. Their contract payments are stopped. Contractors have never received back payments after a government shutdown.”

— On how the shutdown is causing real harm to the health and wellness of Native communities: “… [Indian Health Service] health care providers all over the country provide services essential to the health and wellness of nearly 2.2 million American Indians and Alaska Natives in over 800 hospitals and clinics in 37 states. These federal employees and medical professionals -- including over 2,000 nurses and nearly as many doctors, pharmacists, dentists, and physician assistants -- aren’t getting paid.  But they are forced to work without pay. And there is no end in sight.”

The full text of Udall’s remarks as prepared for delivery is available HERE

Last week, Udall and Heinrich cosponsored and voted for legislation in the Senate to ensure that impacted federal and other government workers will receive their back pay as soon as federal agencies reopen. The senators also joined a group of 34 Democratic senators in writing to the Office of Management and Budget to urge them to direct federal agencies to work with contractors to provide back pay to compensate low- and middle-income contractor employees for the wages they have lost during the shutdown.