Families should not be ‘collateral damage’ in border wall fight, says Benjamin Watson

Benjamin Watson
Baltimore Ravens tight end Benjamin Watson speaks during a Big BENefit event in a Baltimore-area Walmart in December 2016. |

Benjamin Watson urged President Donald Trump to end the suffering caused by the government shutdown. 

As more faith-based organizations stepped in to help workers affected by the partial federal government shutdown Wednesday, vocal Christian family values advocate and New Orleans Saints tight end Watson urged Trump to find a more “efficient way” to negotiate for a border wall without making American families “collateral damage” in his fight for it.

“American families should not be collateral damage in an internal war over funding for a border wall. Whatever the final conclusion, as our commander in chief, I implore the president to consider those most impacted by this partial shutdown. There must be a more efficient way,” Watson tweeted to his almost 95,000 followers on Tuesday night.

Watson, a 15-year NFL veteran who has played with teams such as the New England Patriots, Cleveland Browns and Baltimore Ravens, recently announced plans to retire from the league at the end of the playoffs. Known for his devout Christian faith, Watson has been active in many causes, such as fighting poverty, opposing sex trafficking and defending the lives of the unborn. 

His tweet also shared a recent CBS News report featuring three wives of members of the U.S. Coast Guard. It is the only military branch that doesn't get paid during the government shutdown because it is part of the Department of Homeland Security the report said.

"Our budget is extremely tight. We have just bought only the necessities when we went grocery shopping and you know trying to look at the sales and see what's on sale," Vienna Julien one of the Coast Guard wives said about how the shutdown has affected her family.

“Build the wall, don't build the wall. But pay our husbands," Julien added. 

"We've been having 'struggle meals,' we call them," Erin Picou, another wife said. "You take whatever's in the fridge and whatever's in the pantry and throw it in a casserole, and that's a meal."

As the partial shutdown drags on, churches such as the Oak Grove Missionary Baptist Church in Memphis, Tennessee, has been offering help for federal employees in their congregation affected by the partial shutdown and called on other churches to do the same.

Central Union Mission, a faith-based nonprofit organization and the oldest private social service agency in Washington D.C., invited any at-risk member of the 364,000 federal employees in the D.C. area in need of food to visit their Family Ministry Center Monday through Thursday between 2:30 and 4:00 p.m.

“Groceries will be available while supplies last through our Emergency Referral Program. People seeking assistance must bring a government-issued I.D. and agency work badge/ID. Families affected by SNAP shortages can show their food stamp card and I.D.,” a release from the agency said.

“People can fall on hard times for a variety of reasons, including a government shutdown. Whatever the reason, the Mission is committed to helping our neighbors in need,” Mission President Joseph Mettimano said.

Now in its 27th day, the partial government shutdown is officially the longest on record in U.S. history, the USA Today reported. The president is demanding $5.7 billion to pay for a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border and has declared he will veto any legislation that does not include that amount. Democrats, however, oppose any additional funding for a wall.

Wednesday, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., informed the White House that she would delay Trump's State of the Union Address until the shutdown is over, citing security concerns, though also suggested a written address as was common before television. 

Wall Street Journal opinion columnist Kimberly Strassel noted that unlike other shutdowns — like Obama's 16-day shutdown in 2013 in which "the administration immediately furloughed workers and cut pay for private contractors," and shut down Head Start and placed barricades around the World War II memorial — President Trump told the Office of Management and Budget to make "this event as painless as possible."

"Yet there are no legal fixes for some truly painful effects — including Friday’s missed paycheck for 800,000 federal workers," Strassel said.

While there will be no further payments for food stamps or for the Coast Guard, she noted that under the partial federal shutdown some agencies can continue to function to protect safety and human life and property, "as well as in aid of the president’s fulfilling constitutional duties."

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