US President Donald Trump stopped short of invoking emergency powers, appealing instead on Democrats to approve his border barrier proposal by arguing that illegal immigration via Mexico was causing a humanitarian crisis.
Trump’s address to the nation, broadcast by major networks live from the Oval office, comes amid an ongoing partial shutdown of federal government services, due to the White House’s insistence on Congress spending at least $5 billion on building a border wall, which Democrats are insistent on blocking.
Despite speculation ahead of the speech that Trump might invoke a declaration of national emergency and unlock sweeping presidential powers that would allow him to command the Pentagon to build the border wall, the president ended up asking for another meeting with congressional Democrats to resolve the impasse.
Democrats have repeatedly vowed Trump will “never” get a penny for the border wall, declaring it outdated, ineffective, and “immoral.” Trump addressed those arguments by saying the steel barrier was proposed by professionals at the Department of Homeland Security and the US Border Patrol. And if walls are immoral, he asked, 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. They build walls because they love the people on the inside,” Trump said. “The only thing immoral is for politicians to do nothing.”
The US president went down the list of arguments about the harm of illegal immigration, saying that it disproportionately harmed African-Americans and Hispanics, women and children. He noted that more Americans would die from drug overdoses this year than in the entire Vietnam War, and said that 90 percent of those drugs comes in via the southern border.
How much more American blood must we shed before Congress does its job?
There was nothing new, however, in the president’s address that he has not already argued since announcing his candidacy in 2015, or over the past two years of his term in office.
Nor was there any evidence his rhetoric persuaded the Democrats: in their rebuttal address, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-California) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York) said Trump was “manufacturing a crisis” and “holding the American people hostage,” demanding once again that he cave in to their resistance and reopen the government without funding the wall.
“The symbol of America should be the Statue of Liberty, not a 30-foot wall,” said Schumer, who accused Trump of “stoking fear” and trying to “govern by temper tantrum.”
Pelosi declared the wall to be “expensive and ineffective,” and said the US should fund innovation and “new technology” to better police border crossings instead.
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