What happens at the border when the government shuts down?

The U.S. government is on the verge of its second shutdown since 2013, with Washington Post experts saying it is very likely government operations will cease at the end of the month. If this happens, many – but not all – branches of the government will close down until budget negotiations produce a deal.

Congress returned from recess on Sept. 8, and now must complete a budget pact by Sept. 30, or the government will cease nonessential operations until a new deal can be agreed upon. Planned Parenthood funding, military spending and the Iran nuclear agreement are several issues that lawmakers can't seem to find common ground on, and if they don't before the end of the month, then the lack of a budget will force a shutdown. While congressional leaders are doing what they can to avoid that situation, it seems somewhat likely to happen.

When the government shuts down, only essential functions and fee-based agencies continue, while other federal operations, such as the National Park Service, cease activities. It could be useful to look back to the last time lawmakers couldn't agree upon a budget, in late 2013, to determine where the government will shut everything down, as well as where it won't.

"CBP is considered essential."

CBP during the 2013 government shutdown
During the October 2013 shutdown, most Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) employees, for example, remained on the job, since the agency is considered essential. The San Diego Reader noted that 52,673 of the CBP's 59,561 employees were expected to remain on duty through the shutdown. The agency now notes that it has over 60,000 employees, and if the expected shutdown at the end of the month is anything like the previous one, then the majority of the CBP's staff will remain on duty.

However, during the last shutdown, Erik Finkelnburg, a CBP agent, emailed Josh Barro at Business Insider, to explain that even though he and his coworkers remained on the job, they weren't getting paid, and morale at the border was low. While the agency's operations didn't cease, the last government shutdown certainly wasn't a pleasant time for CBP employees.

As the end of the month nears, a government shutdown seems more likely.As the end of the month nears, a government shutdown seems more likely.

What can be expected if the government shuts down again
If that October 2013 stretch without a budget repeats itself, happenings at the border will likely be similar. Border ports, for example, would probably remain open in the event of a shutdown. Law firm Ogletree Deakins noted that port operations wouldn't be affected all that much. However, CBP is funded federally, as opposed to U.S. Customs and Immigration Services (USCIS), which is fee-based. Because of this, the firm suggested that companies file petitions with USCIS whenever possible if the government does shutdown. However, it is important to note that the agency could face delays due to its reliance on other departments that are federally funded.

It may also be important to note that the last shutdown occurred ahead of the deployment of the first phase of the Automated Commercial Environment (ACE) single window system, according to CBP. Due to this, the initial phase was delayed a month. However, there are no upcoming deadlines for ACE in early October, as there was in 2013.