Federal shutdown protest at San Diego airport

Ammar Campa-Najjar joined a protest of about 40 union members Friday at San Diego International Airport calling for an immediate end to the partial government shutdown.

The congressional candidate made a prediction: The stalemate wouldn’t last another month as some feared.

“I think the pain is being felt by Donald Trump,” Campa-Najjar said. “I think he’s finally going to cave in and do the right thing.”

Minutes later, President Trump announced he would open the government for three weeks of border-security talks without first getting $5.7 billion for a border wall.

Rep. Scott Peters, speaking on the sunny sidewalk outside Baggage Claim at Terminal 1, seemed to know something the rest of the protesters didn’t.

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“Even as we speak, we hear that President Trump has agreed to a three-week continuance of the government,” said the 52nd District Democrat. “If that’s true, great. But we should never have [gotten] to this point. … I’m sick and tired [of] beating up on public employees who are just doing their jobs.”

A mix of union leaders and members — including domestic workers, ironworkers and Carol Kim of the local Building and Construction Trades Council — took turns at a microphone begging an end to the 35-day shutdown and demanding payment of federal workers.

“It’s beyond ridiculous at this point,” said George McCubbin, a 27-year Border Patrol agent who now serves as a national vice president of the American Federation of Government Employees. “We owe those who are protecting us to pay them. It’s a simple concept.”

McCubbin, who introduced other speakers, popped back at one point to call out “some individuals” in Washington telling federal workers to “suck it up.”

He referred to Trump administration chiefs such as Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, who on Thursday suggested furloughed workers get a loan to pay for housing or food.

“I dream of the day when one of them tells me that to my face,” McCubbin said as air travelers emerged from the terminal. “That’s not how we treat our people. To see them sit in their ivory tower and make those kind of comments (while) these folks are having real problems.”

Peters later released a statement, expressing relief that federal workers will soon get back pay.

“Now Congress can have a discussion about real border security: effective, fact-based solutions that reflect our American values,” he said, noting that he detailed what “real border security looks like” during the Weekly Democratic Address
on Jan. 11.

“We can never allow government funding to lapse again because of a debate over a border wall,” Peters said. “Ideally, we would return to responsible yearly budgeting to give certainty to federal agencies, government workers, and the American people.”

in her own statement, Rep. Susan Davis, D-San Diego, said she was glad the president has decided to listen to reason — bit “this could have happened five weeks ago.”

The 53rd District rep added: “I encourage the president and the Republican Party to take stock of this shutdown and come to the conclusion that the only thing they achieve is causing pain. We need to come together in a bipartisan manner to get fully informed of the most efficacious approach to our border security options.”

And Rep. Duncan Hunter, the Alpine Republican who in November turned back a Campa-Najjar challenge in the 50th District, said he preferred a spending bill include funding for a border wall.

“During this shutdown, Congressional Democrats have made it abundantly clear that border security is not a priority for them, that they care more for the security and well-being of people in foreign countries than people here in our country, including Dreamers,” Hunter said in a statement.

But acknowledging that the legislative process does not always provide “exactly what we want,” he said: “President Trump … has not abandoned the wall and has made it clear to me that he is personally committed to continuing to fight for it in ongoing negotiations.”

Hunter said he met Thursday with Trump at the White House, and “I trust his judgement and will stand by his side in moving forward in this manner while, at the same time, hold the president and all my colleagues accountable in staying the course and eventually getting a border wall built.”

One of the sign-holding protesters at the airport was Amina Muwwakkil, a millennial operations specialist with the Federal Aviation Administration.

A downtown renter, joining the protest on her day off, she said she hadn’t yet asked her family for help but still works paycheck-to-paycheck.

When the shutdown started, she said she suffered a bout of her seasonal allergies. But she stayed out sick only two days, fearing that she’d lose her job.

She went back to work sniffling.

“I shouldn’t be taking out a loan,” said Muwwakkil, attending as a member of her union, Professional Aviation Safety Specialists or PASS.

She said Trump doesn’t understand employee struggles — “you don’t know our life.”

Echoing that was Kim, the former San Diego City Council candidate and now political director of the construction trades council.

Trump has no respect for workers, she said, and no care for their families.

“And when you take away the paychecks of our TSA agents, our aviation safety inspectors and our systems techs — you are taking away something fundamentally American,” Kim said. “The right to a day’s pay for a day’s work.”