President Trump, in a live address to the nation, portrayed the impasse that has shut down the government as a humanitarian crisis.
“In the last two years, [Immigration and Customs Enforcement] 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,” the President said from the Oval Office last night.
“Over the years thousands of Americans have been brutally killed by those who illegally entered our country and thousands more lives will be lost if we don’t act right now. This is a humanitarian crisis, a crisis of the heart and a crisis of the soul…This is the cycle of human suffering that I am determined to end,” he went on to say.
The government has been shut down for 19 days. It is already the second longest shutdown in the US’ history. The longest shut down took place in 1995-1996 when the government shutdown for 21 days. This shutdown will become the longest if it lasts past Saturday.
President Trump renewed calls for a border wall during his address, saying it is necessary to build one to gain operational control of the southern border. “This barrier is absolutely critical to border security. It’s also what our professionals at the border want and need. This is just common sense,” Mr. Trump said.
He laid blame for the shutdown squarely at the feet of Congressional Democrats. “Democrats in Congress have refused to acknowledge the crisis. And they have refused to provide our brave border agents with the tools they desperately need to protect our families and our nation. The federal government remains shut down for one reason and one reason only because Democrats will not fund border security,” he said.
Democrats, who as of January 3 now control the House of Representatives, have refused to pass spending bills that fund the government that include funding for the wall. They view the wall as expensive, ineffective and amoral.
Democrats have proposed reopening the government by funding most of the government through the end of the fiscal year, which ends September 30. They propose funding the Department of Homeland Security with a short term spending bill – one that lasts about 30 days – to give the White House and Congress time to negotiate additional border security measures.
But the President, who sees his hand as weak now that Democrats control the lower house of Congress, sees the shutdown as the only leverage he has to get the funding for a critical part of his border security package.
In addition to funding for a physical barrier, the President is also asking for funding for technology to help detect illegal drugs and weapons crossing the southern border, and increase in the number of ICE agents, immigration judges and the number of beds used to accommodate migrants seeking asylum. The President’s plan, totaling roughly $5.7 billion, also includes increased humanitarian assistance and medical support for those making the treacherous journey from Central American countries to the US.
Roughly 800,000 federal workers are directly affected by the shutdown. About 380,000 employees have been furloughed and more than 420,000 are currently working without pay. The pay period ending on Friday, January 11 is the first pay period to be affected by the shutdown. The earliest workers will get paid is 2 weeks from then – January 25.
The shutdown is partial, so aspects of the government continue to function through the shutdown, such as the military, the US Postal Service and the Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security programs. Agencies and services that have seen disruptions include National Parks, the IRS and environmental and food inspections.
A meeting this afternoon at the White House between President Trump and congressional representatives ended abruptly when Democratic leaders told Mr. Trump they would not fund the wall even if he acquiesced to their demands and reopened government.
“Just left a meeting with Chuck and Nancy, a total waste of time. I asked what is going to happen in 30 days if I quickly open things up, are you going to approve Border Security which includes a Wall or Steel Barrier? Nancy said, NO. I said bye-bye, nothing else works!” the President said of the meeting, referring to Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer.
Photo by The White House