Trump takes his fight for wall to prime time

Merced Sun-Star - - Front Page - BY CATHERINE LUCEY, LISA MASCARO AND JILL COLVIN

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!”

CARLOS BARRIA AP

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.

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