Give Me a Crash Course In . . . The US border wall
Why is Trump’s wall back in the news?
Donald Trump’s hardline immigration policy – and in particular his pledge to build a wall on the United States’ southern border – has come under renewed focus in recent weeks as the US Congress enters the final stage of budget negotiations before the end of the year.
The threat of a partial government shutdown has loomed in the final few days of the current Congress as lawmakers have been trying to negotiate funding priorities. In particular Donald Trump is seeking at least $5 billion for border security, including for his proposed border wall. But Democrats have only been prepared to offer $1.3 billion for border security issues.
What has Trump’s reaction been?
The row about the border funding culminated in a very public spat between Trump and the top two Democrats in Congress, Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer 10 days ago. On TV, Trump’s attempt at negotiations descended into acrimony, with Schumer goading Trump into declaring defiantly that he would be prepared to shut down the federal government in order to get his funding for the border wall. “I am proud to shut down the government for border security, Chuck,” Trump said. “People in this country don’t want criminals and people that have lots of problems and drugs pouring into our country.”
So is the government going to shutdown?
It’s very possible. The past few days have seen an extraordinary series of U-turns by the president. On Wednesday, the Senate voted to endorse a short-term measure to fund the government until February and give negotiators some breathing room, but the “continuing resolution” did not contain money for the president’s wall. Initially the president didn’t seem to mind. Despite continually insisting that you can’t have good border security without a wall, he said that there had been in fact too much talk of the border wall which was distracting from the “great job being done on our Southern Border.” Similarly, he argued that Mexico would indeed pay for the wall indirectly through the savings America will make through the renegotiated Nafta trade agreement.
So Donald Trump came round and the shutdown won’t happen?
No. Trump stunned his own party and markets by announcing on Thursday that he in fact will shut down the government if he doesn’t get border funding. The move left members of Congress – many of whom had left Washington for Christmas – scrambling to try and find a legislative solution to the problem on Friday.
It seems Trump was taken aback by the reaction to his apparent capitulation on his wall. Conservative members of his own party reacted with disbelief at his U-turn. Trump ally Mark Meadows, the head of the “Freedom Caucus”, a group of about 40 conservative Republicans in the House of Representatives, said that the president’s base “will go crazy” if funding for the border wall is not provided. Fox News also weighed in, with figures such as Laura Ingraham lambasting Trump for caving in on a campaign promise.
What has the reaction been?
Trump’s refusal to sign a short-term bill that would avert a government shutdown has thrown the US political scene into chaos just days before Christmas. Stock markets fell sharply on Thursday as a result. Trump’s flip-flopping on the border wall and short-term funding bill coincided with his snap decision to pull troops out of Syria, his possible withdrawal of thousands of troops from Afghanistan and the resignation of his Defense Secretary Jim Mattis. The chain of events in the final days of the current political term have added to a sense of an administration in chaos.
A reinforced section of the US-Mexico border fence is seen from Tijuana. PHOTOGRAPH: GUILLERMO ARIAS/AFP