Trump takes his fight for wall to prime time
President Donald Trump made a televised plea for border wall funding Tuesday night, seeking an edge in the shutdown battle with congressional Democrats as he declared there is “a humanitarian crisis, a crisis of the heart and a crisis of the soul.”
Addressing the nation from the Oval Office for the first time, Trump argued for funding on security and humanitarian grounds as he sought to put pressure on newly empowered Democrats amid an extended partial government shutdown.
The president said that all Americans are hurt by “uncontrolled illegal immigration.” He said it strains public resources and drives down jobs and wages.
Trump used emotional language, referring to Americans who were killed by people in the country illegally, saying: “I’ve met with dozens of families whose loved ones were stolen by illegal immigration. I’ve held the hands of the weeping mothers and embraced the griefstricken fathers. So sad. So terrible.”
The president often highlights such incidents, though studies over several years have found immigrants are less likely to commit crimes than people born in the United States.
He plans a personal visit to the Mexican border on Thursday.
Trump called on Democrats to return to the White House to meet with him, saying it was “immoral” for “politicians to do nothing.”
His Tuesday evening remarks were followed by a televised rebuttal from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, who strongly oppose the wall and have repeatedly called on
Trump to reopen shuttered portions of the government while border negotiations continue.
“We all agree that we need to secure our borders,” Pelosi said. But, she said, the president has “chosen fear.” Democrats, she said, “want to start with the facts.”
“The fact is: President Trump must stop holding the American people hostage, must stop manufacturing a crisis, and must reopen the government,” she said.
She noted that the House passed legislation to reopen government on the first day of the new Congress. But Trump
I’VE MET WITH DOZENS OF FAMILIES WHOSE LOVED ONES WERE STOLEN BY ILLEGAL IMMIGRATION. I’VE HELD THE HANDS OF THE WEEPING MOTHERS AND EMBRACED THE GRIEF-STRICKEN FATHERS. SO SAD. SO TERRIBLE.
President Donald Trump
rejected that legislation because it didn’t have funding for his border wall.
The “symbol of America should be the Statue of Liberty, not a 30-foot wall,” Schumer said in his rebuttal.
Schumer noted that Trump had promised to have Mexico pay for the wall. But having failed, Trump is now “unable to convince Congress or the American people to foot the bill,” Schumer said. “American democracy doesn’t work that way. We don’t govern by temper tantrum.”
Earlier this week,
Trump had discussed the idea of declaring a national emergency to allow him to move forward with the wall without getting congressional approval for the $5.7 billion he’s requested. In his speech Tuesday, he made no such declaration. Such an emergency declaration would have represented a dramatic escalation of the dispute and would have immediately drawn legal challenges.
Trump will meet with Republican lawmakers at the Capitol on Wednesday.
With his use of a formal White House speech instead of his favored Twitter blasts, Trump embraced the ceremonial trappings of his office as he tried to exit a political quagmire. For weeks he has dug in on a signature campaign promise to his base voters, the pledge to build an impregnable “beautiful” wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. But now his self-proclaimed deal-making skills are being put to the test.
The partial government shutdown reached its 18th day on Tuesday, making the closure the secondlongest in history. Hundreds of thousands of federal workers are going without pay, and government disruptions are hitting home with everyday Americans. But Trump has not budged on his demands for $5.7 billion in wall funding, and Democrats have not moved from their opposition, while many Republicans watch anxiously from the sidelines.
In recent days, Trump, who has long railed against illegal immigration at the border, has also seized on humanitarian concerns to argue there is a broader crisis that can only be solved with a wall. Critics say the security risks are overblown and the administration is at least partly to blame for the humanitarian situation.
The number of illegal border crossings is down from 1.6 million in 2000 to less than 400,000 last year. But the number of families coming over the border has risen sharply, putting a strain on health care and immigration services that came into sharp focus with the deaths of two migrant children. Some say Trump’s hardline policies are slowing processing for migrants, creating an overwhelming bottleneck at the border.
After meeting with Democrats over the weekend, the White House issued a series of budget demands, including a new request for $800,000 for humanitarian needs. But mostly Trump still wants his wall, which Democrats describe as immoral as well as an ineffective solution to illegal immigration.
Emphasizing that he’s not abandoning his security argument, Trump said in a fundraising email Tuesday: “I want to make one thing clear to Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi: Your safety is not a political game or a negotiation tactic!”
President Donald Trump speaks from the Oval Office of the White House as he gives a prime-time address about border security Tuesday. He stopped short of declaring a national emergency.