Raising the specter of drugs, human smuggling and crime, President Trump told Americans Tuesday the partial government shutdown would continue until Democrats fund his border wall.
“The federal government remains shut down for one reason and one reason only — because Democrats will not fund border security,” Trump said in his first-ever address to the nation from the Oval Office.
He said a barrier along the border with Mexico is “is absolutely critical” and pointed out that he had compromised by agreeing to a see-through steel fence instead of a concrete wall. He cited drug smuggling, human trafficking and crimes committed by immigrants as the reason a wall is necessary.
“Day after day, precious lives are cut short by those who have violated our borders,” he said in the eight-minute address. “How much more American blood must we shed before Congress does its job?”
However, Trump did not declare a national emergency, under which he could potentially divert funds from the military to build a wall. Many political observers said such a move would face extensive court challenges.
The shutdown is now in its 18th day with 800,000 employees furloughed or working without pay. Many federal contractors are also affected.
Trump has refused to sign legislation funding the government unless it includes $5.7 billion for a border barrier. Democrats controlling the House have agreed to fund only $1.3 billion for border security.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, speaking after the address, described Trump as “manufacturing a crisis” though “misinformation and even malice.”
“The fact is, the women and children at the border are not a security threat, they are a humanitarian challenge,” the San Francisco Democrat said.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, who joined Pelosi in commenting on Trump’s remarks, said Democrats would fund border security, but “the symbol of America should be the Statue of Liberty, not a 30-foot wall.”