Trump vis­its Texas for talks on bor­der cri­sis


MCALLEN, Texas – Driv­ing home his point that il­le­gal cross­ings have cre­ated a national hu­man­i­tar­ian and se­cu­rity cri­sis, Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump took his case for a bor­der wall to this city in the Rio Grande Val­ley on Thurs­day, one of the busiest re­gions of the south­ern bor­der and an epi­cen­ter for il­le­gal im­mi­gra­tion.

The visit came one day after Trump abruptly walked out of bud­get ne­go­ti­a­tions with Democrats in Washington to end the gov­ern­ment shutdown, now near­ing the end of its third week and with no end in sight.

At a U.S. Bor­der Pa­trol sta­tion, where he at­tended a round­table on im­mi­gra­tion and bor­der se­cu­rity, Trump con­tin­ued to urge Congress to pro­vide fund­ing for the con­struc­tion of a bor­der wall.

Trump also blamed Democrats for the par­tial gov­ern­ment shutdown, push­ing back against their crit­i­cism that the sit­u­a­tion at the bor­der was a cri­sis “man­u­fac­tured” by the White House.

“It’s not. What is man­u­fac­tured is the use of the word ‘man­u­fac­tured,’” Trump said.

Join­ing him were Texas’ two Repub­li­can sen­a­tors, John Cornyn and Ted Cruz, as well as Home­land Se­cu­rity Sec­re­tary Kirst­jen Nielsen, U.S. Cus­toms and Bor­der Pro­tec­tion Com­mis­sioner Kevin McAleenan and the head of the U.S. Army Corps of En­gi­neers, Lt. Gen. Todd Se­monite.

Also par­tic­i­pat­ing in the round­table were rel­a­tives of law en­force­ment of­fi­cers who were killed or sus­pected to have been killed by peo­ple who were in the U.S. il­le­gally. Trump has fre­quently sought to rally pub­lic sup­port for his im­mi­gra­tion mes­sage at events with “an­gel fam­i­lies,” a term for those af­fected by vi­o­lent crimes com­mit­ted by il­le­gal im­mi­grants.

Cruz wel­comed the pres­i­dent to Texas and declared that “the Amer­i­can peo­ple want the bor­der se­cure.”

“Il­le­gal im­mi­gra­tion pro­duces tragedies each day. . . . When we see politi­cians go on TV and say the bor­der’s se­cure and there is no cri­sis, they are ig­nor­ing re­al­ity,” Cruz said.

Trump later took a tour along the Rio Grande, where he re­ceived a se­cu­rity brief­ing. Trump also will sit for an in­ter­view at the bor­der with Fox News Chan­nel host Sean Han­nity.

Trump’s visit to McAllen put him a few miles away from where the Army es­tab­lished a base camp in the town of Donna early in Novem­ber from which to carry out bor­der op­er­a­tions. Sol­diers pri­mar­ily strung con­certina wire and added other bar­ri­ers to slow ac­cess to the United States from the south.

The Pen­tagon has about 2,300 ac­tive-duty troops on the south­ern bor­der as­sist­ing the De­part­ment of Home­land Se­cu­rity, down from a high of 5,900. The op­er­a­tion is ap­proved through Jan. 31, but could be ex­tended again. About 1,100 sol­diers and Ma- rines are as­signed to bor­der sup­port in Cal­i­for­nia, with an ad­di­tional 600 troops in Texas and 650 in Ari­zona.

Talks to re­open the gov­ern­ment are at a stale­mate as the par­tial shutdown nears its fourth week. Trump ex­ited a ne­go­ti­at­ing ses­sion Wed­nes­day, say­ing “bye-bye” after Demo­cratic lead­ers said they would refuse to give him the $5.7 bil­lion he is seeking for added bor­der se­cu­rity.

On Thurs­day, after meet­ing with Sen­ate Re­pub­li­cans, Vice Pres­i­dent Mike Pence ruled out any agree­ment that in­volved pro­tec­tions for “dream­ers” brought to the coun­try il­le­gally as chil­dren. Sen. Lind­sey Gra­ham, R-S.C., told re­porters that talks were over and that he had “never been more de­pressed about mov­ing for­ward than right now.”

Trump’s visit to the south­ern bor­der comes as the pres­i­dent is weigh­ing whether to de­clare a national emer­gency at the bor­der.

“I have the op­tion,” Trump told re­porters as he de­parted the White House en route to Texas. “If this doesn’t work out, I prob­a­bly will do it, maybe def­i­nitely.”

Trump said that he is not ready yet to de­clare an emer­gency and that he would still pre­fer to work with Congress. He added that he is will­ing to com­pro­mise.

“I would like to do the deal through Congress,” he said. “It makes sense to do the deal through Congress . . . It would be nice if we can make a deal, but deal­ing with these peo­ple is ridicu­lous.”

In a Tuesday night Oval Of­fice ad­dress to the na­tion, Trump said the sit­u­a­tion at the bor­der had reached cri­sis pro­por­tions, de­scrib­ing mur­der, rape and be­head­ings by il­le­gal im­mi­grants. Democrats said he was ex­ag­ger­at­ing the sit­u­a­tion.

McAllen, a city of about 140,000, has be­come a fo­cal point in the de­bate over im­mi­gra­tion.

Over the past decade, it and the sur­round­ing Rio Grande Val­ley have be­come the busiest place along the U.S.-Mex­ico bor­der for il­le­gal cross­ings.

Trump’s first stop Thurs­day was the McAllen Bor­der Pa­trol sta­tion. Its hold­ing cells be­came so over­crowded dur­ing a 2014 cri­sis that the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion pur­chased a nearby ware­house, con­vert­ing it into a des­ig­nated pro­cess­ing cen­ter for fam­i­lies and chil­dren with chain-link de­ten­tion pens.

The pres­i­dent’s itin­er­ary Thurs­day also took him to the Rio Grande and the banks of the wind­ing river where the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion’s bor­der wall plan would add dozens of miles of fenc­ing.

Large tracts of pri­vate prop­erty would need to be ac­quired by the gov­ern­ment to cre­ate space for the wall and ser­vice roads, driv­ing up con­struc­tion costs, and sev­eral lo­cal farm­ers and ranch­ers in the McAllen area say they will chal­lenge the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s plan in court.

Thurs­day’s visit marked Trump’s second trip to the U.S.-Mex­ico bor­der as pres­i­dent. Last year, he trav­eled to the San Diego area, where he viewed bor­der wall pro­to­types.

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