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President argues for border wall

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Associated Press


In a somber televised plea, President Donald Trump urged congressional Democrats to fund his long-promised border wall Tuesday night, blaming illegal immigration for the scourge of drugs and violence in the U.S. and framing the debate over the partial government shutdown in stark terms.

“This is a choice between right and wrong,” he declared.

Democrats in response accused Trump of appealing to “fear, not facts” and manufacturing a border crisis for political gain.

The back-to-back remarks by Trump and Democratic leaders appeared unlikely to do much to break the logjam that has left large swaths of the government closed. Three weeks into the shutdown, the strain was starting to show with hundreds of thousands of federal workers on track to miss paychecks this week.

Addressing the nation from the Oval Office for the first time, Trump argued for spending some $5.7 billion for a border wall on both security and humanitarian grounds as he sought to put pressure on newly empowered Democrats amid the extended shutdown.

Trump, who will visit the Mexican border in person Thursday, invited the Democrats to return to the White House to meet with him today, saying it was “immoral” for “politicians to do nothing.”

Previous meetings have led to no agreement as Trump insists on the wall that was his signature promise in the 2016 presidential campaign.

Shifting between empathetic appeals and the dark immigration rhetoric that was a trademark of his presidential campaign, Trump asked: “How much more American blood must we shed before Congress does its job?”

Responding in their own televised remarks, Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer accused Trump of misrepresenting the situation on the border as they urged him to reopen closed government departments and turn loose paychecks for hundreds of thousands of workers.

Negotiations on wall funding could proceed in the meantime, they said.

Schumer said Trump “just used the backdrop of the Oval Office to manufacture a crisis, stoke fear and divert attention from the turmoil in his administration.”

Overall, Trump largely restated his case for the wall without offering concessions or new ideas on how to resolve the standoff that has kept large swaths of the government closed for the past 18 days. Speaking in solemn tones from behind the Resolute Desk, he painted a dire picture of killings and drug deaths he argues come from unchecked illegal immigration.

Trump ticked off a string of statistics and claims to make his case that there is a crisis at the border, but a number of his statements were misleading, such as saying the new trade deal with Mexico would pay for the wall, or suggesting through gruesome examples that immigrants are more likely to commit crime.

Trump, who has long railed against illegal immigration at the border, has recently seized on humanitarian concerns to argue there is a broader crisis that can only be solved with a wall. But critics say the security risks are overblown and the administration is at least partly to blame for the humanitarian situation.

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 grief-stricken 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.

Trump has been discussing the idea of declaring a national emergency to allow him to move forward with the wall without getting congressional approval for the billions he’s requested. But he did not mention that Tuesday night.

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 tries to exit a political quagmire of his own making. 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.


Area, state and federal elected officials reacted to President Donald Trump’s Oval Office speech to the nation on immigration by calling for the president to put the American people ahead of politics by ending the government shutdown.

Gov. John Kasich: “The president and the Democrats need to learn how to compromise and put the American people first. It would start with the president putting the country ahead of his politics and being more flexible with his goals. People are going to start hurting from the government shutdown because of partisan politics. We need comprehensive immigration reform, including a guest worker program, and an economic and security program that will allow people to stay in their home country where they can be more prosperous. Immigration reform must deal with the humanitarian crisis and secure the border. Border security is important, but both sides should be willing to negotiate on how we do it. Our country needs real leadership to solve our problems. Right now it doesn’t look like that leadership exists in Washington, D.C.”

U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown: “President Trump is taking paychecks away from thousands of American workers and throwing families into crisis every day he refuses to reopen the government. The president must end his shutdown and put Americans back to work.” Brown has called on Trump and Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to end the shutdown immediately and said the Senate shouldn’t be voting on anything else this week until the government is reopened. Tuesday, Brown met with workers hurt by the shutdown, including Transportation Security Administration workers at Cleveland Hopkins Airport and UNITE HERE Local 23 food service workers in Arlington, Va., who work in the Smithsonian museums and at federal agencies in the nation’s capital. “Many of these contracted workers are paid hourly and often have no way of recouping lost hours and wages during a government shutdown.”

U.S. Rep. Bill Johnson of Marietta, R-6th: “I stand with President Trump on this issue of major national importance. The president is asking for 234 miles of a new steel barrier to stop crime, drugs, and violence from coming across the border and into the United States. It’s unfortunate that we’ve reached this point with a partial government shutdown, but playing politics with our nation’s security and the safety of the American people is very irresponsible. Therefore, I urge House and Senate Democrats to stop the political games, and get serious about securing America’s southern border.”