As the US government partial shutdown approaches one month, the longest in American history, we have to assess what impact it is having on the Caribbean region. Of the eight hundred thousand (800,000) federal workers who are not receiving a paycheck, how many of them are West Indians not able to send remittances to their families back home?
Even more potentially detrimental to the region are the federal workers who provide services directly to Caribbean nationals. These include workers at the embassies who process visa applications, aid agencies like USAID and the coast guard.
Yes! The Coast Guard. There are approximately 1,200 US coast guard personnel performing drug interdiction and immigration control. US coastguards patrol our waters making drug busts, tracking and catching polluters, preventing arms and other contraband from entering our countries and saving lives. And Yes, they too have already missed a paycheck! All of these men and women currently serving in the region are doing so without pay due to the ongoing shutdown.
I suggest that this partial shut down of the American federal government gives the leaders of the CARICOM countries the opportunity to show our gratitude to the men and women who work tirelessly on our behalf, protecting Caribbean families and our shores, by assisting them in keeping up with their obligations while they are not receiving a paycheck from their government.
I must ask-What happens if there is a catastrophic event in one of our countries? Yes, We expect the personnel of the US Coast Guard to, like they have always done in the past, respond. For they are “Semper Paratus-Always Ready”. While we are out of the hurricane season, we, in the region are well aware of the potential of other natural disasters and vulnerabilities.
This partial shutdown will impact response efforts and American citizens, Americans students in the region. While I am confident the US Coast Guard will respond because of their devotion to duty and commitment to the region, we must open dialogue and support those in our region and continue to work to strengthen relations. It is my hope that they find a way to end the divisive issue that led to this US government partial shutdown sooner than later.
Given this current gross abuse of power, immediate Measures must be taken to protect federal workers including all those deployed. It is our duty as a region to let our voices be heard as the US needs to be more attuned to the vulnerabilities of Caribbean countries. The impact of the partial shutdown to our region is real and potentially poses a threat and we cannot go radio silent on this issue. As a region, we must become better prepared to protect our shores and work at being more independent on matters of security.
I’d like to take this appeal a step further, and ask the members of Congress in the United States to introduce and pass a bill into law that will protect federal workers wages and that of coast guards moving forward. Thinking of those in overseas assignments and their importance internationally, we simply cannot afford as a global community to take such a risk having our coastguards worried about their families at home financial well being while deployed.
The region needs the US coastguards partnerships! I am happy to collaborate with members of the House of Representatives on drafting such a bill. What I know for sure, is that those who are dedicated to protecting the personal safety and security of our region, Preserving the freedom of our seas, Facilitating the movement of desirable goods and people across borders while screening out dangerous people and materials;
Facilitating and defending commerce – Coast Guard members and their families need not be worried about a roof over their heads or food on the table.
Ms. Sapphire Carrington