Addressing the nation for the first time in his presidency from the Oval Office, President Trump made his case for a border wall, calling the situation on the southern border a “growing humanitarian and security crisis.”
“This is a humanitarian crisis — a crisis of the heart and a crisis of the soul,” Trump said. “All Americans are hurt by uncontrolled illegal migration. It strains public resources and drives down jobs and wages. Among those hardest hit are African Americans and Hispanic Americans.”
The 10 minute address comes as the partial government shutdown enters its third week without any signs that either Trump or the House Democrats finding a compromise. During his remarks, Trump called out the Democrats, including Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, for refusing to acknowledge the crisis along the southern border and their hypocrisy for once supporting a “physical barrier in the past.”
“Democrats in Congress have refused to acknowledge the crisis,” Trump said. “Senator Chuck Schumer, who you will be hearing from later tonight has repeatedly supported a physical barrier in the past, along with many other Democrats. They changed their mind only after I was elected President.”
The president outlined the urgency for a wall by addressing the growing number of migrants trying to cross the U.S. border, while blasting critics for saying a wall is “immoral” despite having “physical barriers around their homes.”
“Every day, Customs and Border Patrol agents encounter thousands of illegal immigrants trying to enter our country,” Trump said. “Our southern border is a pipeline for vast quantities of illegal drugs, including meth, heroin, cocaine, and fentanyl. In the last two years, ICE officers made 266,000 arrests of aliens with criminal records, including those charged or convicted of 100,000 assaults, 30,000 sex crimes, and 4,000 violent killings.”
“Some have suggested a barrier is immoral. Then why do wealthy politicians build walls, fences, and gates around their homes? They don’t build walls because they hate the people on the outside, but because they love the people on the inside. The only thing that is immoral is the politicians to do nothing and continue to allow more innocent people to be so horribly victimized,” Trump added.
Trump also urged Congress to take up his request for $5.7 billion funding for a border, along with millions for additional border patrol agents, detention beds and new screening technology.
“As part of an overall approach to border security, law enforcement professionals have requested $5.7 billion for a physical barrier,” Trump said. “My administration has presented Congress with a detailed proposal to secure the border and stop the criminal gangs, drug smugglers, and human traffickers. The proposal from Homeland Security includes cutting-edge technology for detecting drugs, weapons, illegal contraband, and many other things. We have requested more agents, immigration judges, and bed space to process the sharp rise in unlawful migration fueled by our very strong economy.”
Speaking in a soft and measured tone, Trump shared heartbreaking stories of Americans killed by illegal immigrants, including the recent killing of California police Cpl. Ronil Singh who was murdered the day after Christmas by an illegal immigrant.
“America’s heart broke the day after Christmas when a young police officer in California was savagely murdered in cold blood by an illegal alien, who just came across the border,” Trump declared. “The life of an American hero was stolen by someone who had no right to be in our country.”
The president also detailed the murders of other victims killed by criminal aliens.
“In California, an Air Force veteran was raped, murdered, and beaten to death with a hammer by an illegal alien with a long criminal history. In Georgia, an illegal alien was recently charged with murder for killing, beheading, and dismembering his neighbor. In Maryland, MS-13 gang members who arrived in the United States as unaccompanied minors were arrested and charged last year after viciously stabbing and beating a 16-year-old girl,” Trump said
He added, “How much more American blood must we shed before Congress does its job?”
Trump has warned that he will not sign any spending bill that doesn’t include the border wall funding. Over the weekend, Trump publicly weighed in the possibility of declaring a “national emergency,” as a way to bypass Congress and divert funds allocated to some of the government to fund the wall. His decision to declare an emergency would depend on the continuous standoff with Democrats over whether they will meet his demand that a border wall will be funded as a part of an agreement to reopen portions of the government that is shutdown.
“I may declare a national emergency dependent on what’s going to happen over the next few days,” Trump told reporters on Sunday. “We have a meeting with Vice President Pence and a group will be going to a certain location that you know where that and they’ll be having another meeting.
Earlier on Tuesday, senior White House officials said the president has not yet made a final decision on whether to declare a national emergency.
Following Trump address, Democratic leaders, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Schumer responded with a rebuttal, accusing Trump of “manufacture a crisis, stoke fear and divert attention from the turmoil in his administration.”
“President Trump must stop holding the American people hostage, must stop manufacturing a crisis, and must reopen the government,” Pelosi said.
Schumer called on Trump to approve the House Measure that would end the partial government shutdown “while allowing debate over border security to continue.”
“We can re-open the government and continue to work through disagreements about policy,” Schumer said. “We can secure our border without an expensive, ineffective wall. And, we can welcome legal immigrants and refugees without compromising safety and security. The symbol of America should be the Statue of Liberty, not a thirty-foot wall.”
In a separate rebuttal streamed on Facebook Live, Sen. Bernie Sanders spoke of the 800,000 federal employees working without pay due to the partial shutdown while pointing out shouldn’t be “held hostage as political pawns.”
“President Trump has stated tonight, and, over and over again in recent weeks, that this country faces a national emergency,” Sanders said. “Well, he’s right. But it’s an emergency and a crisis that he himself has created. Our federal employees deserve to be treated with respect, not held hostage as political pawns.”
Republicans, on the other hand, reaffirmed that they are standing with the president on this issue and are hoping their Democrat colleagues “will come to the table and help deliver a solution.”
“Tonight, President Trump reaffirmed his commitment to addressing the humanitarian and security crisis at our nation’s southern border,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said in a statement. “His proposal to increase security through physical barriers suits the reality on the ground and it simply builds on earlier legislation that Senate Democrats like then-Senator Obama, then-Senator Clinton, and Senator Schumer previously supported with enthusiasm.”
McConnell continued, “The past eighteen days have shown that Democrats’ refusal to negotiate is not due to any principled objection, but simply due to partisan spite for the president. For the men and women of the Border Patrol, for the safety of American families, and for all Americans who deserve a fully operational federal government, I sincerely hope my Democratic colleagues will come to the table and help deliver a solution.”
Trump is expected to head to Capitol Hill on Wednesday to meet with Senate Republicans. Key Congressional leaders will also meet with the president for the third time since the government standoff.
“This situation could be solved in a 45-minute meeting,” Trump said. “I have invited Congressional leadership to the White House tomorrow to get this done. Hopefully, we can rise above partisan politics in order to support national security.”
On Thursday, Trump is scheduled to travel to the Southern border to “meet with those on the frontlines of the national security and humanitarian crisis.”