WASHINGTON, D.C. – President Donald Trump opened his first Oval Office address to the nation warning of “a growing humanitarian and security crisis at our southern border,” and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer delivered the Democratic response.
The president said Tuesday night that all Americans are hurt by uncontrolled illegal immigration. He says it strains public resources and drives down jobs and wages.
“All Americans are hurt by uncontrolled illegal immigration. It strains public resources and drives down jobs and wages.”
The president says among those hit hardest by illegal immigration are African-Americans and Hispanics, though he did not provide any evidence to back that up.
The president used his address to implore Americans that the flow of immigrants into the U.S. illegally at the southern border is a crisis.
“A crisis of the heart, a crisis of the soul.”
Speaking from behind the Resolute Desk, Trump said the US could no longer accommodate immigrants who enter the country illegally.
“We are out of space to hold them and we have no way to promptly return them back home to their country,” Trump said.
After weeks of a partial government shutdown, Trump and his negotiators have made little headway in convincing Democrats a barrier is needed before agencies can reopen and federal workers can begin receiving paychecks again.
The administration has steadfastly refused to take steps that would restore funding to some agencies, believing the shutdown is its best leverage to secure the wall funds. Fearing he could lose a messaging battle as more Americans feel the pain of a shuttered government, Trump escalated his warnings that the country is unsafe without the border wall he promised as a candidate.
He asserts that the government remains shut down because Democrats won’t fund border security.
“President Trump must stop holding the American people hostage, must stop manufacturing a crisis and must reopen the government,” Pelosi said.
For weeks, the President and congressional Democrats have been at an impasse over his demand for $5.7 billion in federal funding to build a wall on the US-Mexico border. Last year, Congress passed most of its spending bills, but 25% of the federal government’s spending has lapsed during the fraught negotiations.
About 800,000 federal workers are not getting paid during the shutdown, which affects the Departments of Homeland Security, Justice, Agriculture, Treasury, State, Interior, Transportation, Commerce, and Housing and Urban Development, as well as agencies like the Food and Drug Administration, Environmental Protection Agency and Internal Revenue Service.
Pelosi and Schumer said the president is to blame for the partial government shutdown, which has now stretched to its 18th day, the second-longest ever.
Last week, the Democratic-controlled House passed bills to reopen the government without funding for the wall, which Pelosi has called “an immorality.”
On Tuesday, Pelosi and Schumer urged Trump to sign them.
“Separate the shutdown from the arguments over border security,” said Schumer. “There is bipartisan legislation — supported by Democrats and Republicans — to reopen government while allowing debate over border security to continue. Democrats and the President both want stronger border security,” he added. “However, we sharply disagree with the President about the most effective way to do it.”
But expecting Trump to veto them, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has not brought the House bills up for a vote. On Tuesday, the Kentucky Republican said on the Senate floor that the whole fight is over “one-tenth of one percent of federal spending” and pointed to a vote in 2006 in which Democrats supported building physical barriers at the border.
“This is no newfound, principled objection,” McConnell said. “It’s just political spite.”
Yet as the shutdown has dragged on, some Republican senators have split from their party’s strategy and announced support for funding the government without money allocated to build the wall. The majority of the public has opposed the wall and blamed Republicans for the shutdown, according to polls.
On Tuesday evening, Trump said, “The only thing that is immoral is the politicians to do nothing and continue to allow more innocent people to be so horribly victimized.”
He has considered declaring a national emergency to circumvent Congress and get the military to build the wall.
While there were about 416,000 apprehensions at the US-Mexico border in the first 11 months of 2018, the most since 2014, that was many fewer than in most years of the preceding three decades, according to the Pew Research Center.