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USVI Gains Voting Powers in Congress, Plaskett Joins House Oversight and Reform Committee

St. Thomas — Wednesday, January 23rd 2019 marks the 33rd day since the U.S. government entered the longest shutdown in U.S. history after lawmakers failed to reach an agreement on the nation’s fiscal budget. Particularly, the funding of President Trump’s border wall.

With the new Congress in session, bills are being pumped out that will directly impact the U.S. Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico and three other U.S. territories in the Pacific. Representatives in U.S. territories will be allowed to vote on the House floor, one of the first signs that the status of territories, often disenfranchised in national politics is changing.

The new bill passed by House members acknowledges that U.S. territories do not have a vote and should be better represented when passing legislation that governs all corners of the United States. Congresswoman Stacey Plaskett is now a part of several important committees and can now represent the territory with a voting voice.

“But this is very helpful to members, one to see how the members from the territories vote, other members get to see where we stand. Also so our constituents get to see where we stand,” she said to the Source.

Plaskett will also be directly involved with any probes or investigations into the President and his business dealings, a power Democrats haven’t had since losing their majority. Watch Plaskett, a former U.S. attorney that worked alongside former FBI director James Comey talk about the Mueller investigation:

On Saturday, President Trump addressed the nation, introducing a new proposal for Democrats to consider to gain support to end the government shutdown. The President offered Democrats protections for Dreamers and other concessions to secure $5 billion to build a wall on the southern border.

In his address, Trump continued his plea for his border wall, stating that the southern border creates a humanitarian crisis for the American people as it is a gateway for illegal drugs entering the country as well as human trafficking. While the President might be right about a drug crisis in America, the drugs coming into the U.S. Northeast often arrive by plane, boat, or hidden in vehicles, according to an intelligence report by the Drug Enforcement Administration.

A 24-page report prepared by the DEA in May found that drugs like heroin do enter the United States through the Mexican border, but also noted that most drug trafficking is done through legal points of entry.

Trump also acknowledged the young girls and women who are sexually exploited and raped on the journey through the border into the United States. A fate he feels could be deterred if his barrier were built instead of being blocked.

The President further stated that he would need an additional $800,000.00 for operational costs. These additional funds would go toward initiatives that would assist illegal immigrants in filing for asylum in their own countries as well as a family unification plan which he hopes would increase their well-being, and lessen the likelihood of immigrants entering the United States illegally.

Trump also promised that if granted the funds for the wall, he would extent the rights of Dreamers — immigrants who were brought to the country illegally as children. The extension includes a pathway to work permits and social security registration and would be for 3 years.

So far Democrats have rejected President Trump’s new offer and are asking the President to fund the government with the bills originally passed by Congress. The President has pledged to end the shutdown once this support is met. The bill is set to appear in the House next week for further discussion and debate.

The Virgin Islands is set to have a special election on March 30th that will give residents an opportunity to alter the structure of future legislative bodies in the territory. Under the new measure, the territory would be split into five distinct districts; two on St. Croix; two on St. Thomas and one on St. John.

“As a former prosecutor and Justice Department official, I understand that my experience will be utilized front and center to support the Committee in some of its important work this term,” Plaskett said in a release earlier today. “The House Oversight and Reform Committee will conduct oversight of President Trump’s administration. The long neglect of meaningful House oversight on our nation’s most serious problems in recent years ends now with Democrats serving in the majority in the House.

Once voted on, the new law cannot take effect until Congress approves it, something the Congresswoman is positioned to do with the new voting rules.

Featured image courtesy of Rick Reinholds, Amaziah contributed to this article.