President Donald Trump tonight described in dramatic words what he called a “humanitarian and security crisis” at the southern border between the United States and Mexico.
He reiterated his demand for $5.7 billion to pay for a physical barrier at the border, a barrier that he said would be a “steel barrier rather than a concrete wall.” It was his first televised speech from the oval office as president, and lasted about ten minutes.
Trump noted that a significant part of the Federal government remains “shut down,” and said the “only solution” is passage of a spending bill, which he said is being blocked by Democrats in Congress.
The president announced that he will hold a meeting with Congressional leaders at the White House on Wednesday to discuss his demands.
Importantly, Trump said nothing further about any actions he might take if Congress fails to appropriate the requested money. He made no threats indicating an imminent Constitutional crisis, did not use the word “emergency,” and gave no indication of how long the partial government shutdown might continue.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Leader Chuck Schumer, both Democrats, disagreed strongly about the existence of a border crisis and need for a border barrier in brief comments after the speech by the president, who is a Republican.
No resolution appears likely at tomorrow’s White House meeting, based on the president’s speech and replies by the Democratic leaders. The possibility or likelihood of escalation of the deadlock, including unilateral action by the president, is no more clear than before the speech.
During the shutdown, affected government workers are not being paid, although some are required to continue working because they are considered “essential.” The Defense Department and the military is not included in the shutdown because that funding had already been passed by Congress. However, the Department of Homeland Security and other major agencies, such as the Department of Agriculture, are included in the shutdown.
Trump said the proposed barrier is necessary to prevent entry into the United States of large numbers of criminal gang members, drug smugglers, and other immigrants, people for whom he said “we have no space.” To emphasize his point, the president detailed at least four heinous crimes by people illegally in the country. He said the decision to build the barrier is a choice between right and wrong.
— John Hayden