Using his first Oval Office address to the nation, President Donald Trump delivered a speech Tuesday night amid the ongoing government shutdown, calling the situation at the southern border a “growing humanitarian and security crisis” in the opening line of his address.
“This is a humanitarian crisis, a crisis of the heart, a crisis of the soul,” Trump said.
In Trump’s address, which was aimed to drum up public support for the border wall, the president implored Congress to agree to his administration’s request to $5.7 billion in border wall funding, and additionally, millions more for detention beds and new screening technology, ABC News reports.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 9, 2019
“These are the resources they have requested to properly perform their mission and keep America safe. In fact, safer than ever before," the president said of border agents and law enforcement.
Speaking from the Oval Office, Trump claimed that the United States could not further accommodate immigrants who enter the country illegally, CNN reports.
“We are out of space to hold them and we have no way to promptly return them back home to their country,” Trump said during his address. “All Americans are hurt by uncontrolled illegal migration. It strains public resources and drives down jobs and wages.”
The president called on Congress to think of the families of Americans that had been killed by illegal immigrants, saying, “I have met with dozens of families whose loved ones were stolen by illegal immigrants. I have held the hands of the mothers and embraced the grief stricken fathers. I will never forget the pain in their eyes, the tremble in their voices, and the sadness gripping their souls. How much more American blood must we shed before congress does its job?”
Trump also highlighted the violence that migrants face when en route to the United States.
During his campaign for office, Trump promised that Mexico would pay for the border wall, but in his address Tuesday night, the president claimed that the wall would “quickly pay for itself” and that it would be indirectly paid for through the new trade agreement reached with Mexico and Canada, ABC News reports. Economists, however, have disputed this assertion.
Trump placed the burden of the shutdown on Democrats for refusing to cede to his demands on border security funding, saying the matter could easily “be resolved in a 45 minute meeting.”
“The government remains shut down for one reason and one reason only: the Democrats will not fund border security,” Trump said from behind the Resolute Desk, adding that he has “invited congressional leadership to the White House tomorrow to get this done.”
In response to Trump’s address, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) began the Democrat’s rebuttal, saying, “The president has chosen fear. We want to start with the facts,” noting that House Democrats passed legislation to reopen the government on the first day of the new Congress, The Huffington Post reports.
— Nancy Pelosi (@SpeakerPelosi) January 9, 2019
“The president is rejecting these bipartisan bills which would reopen government — over his obsession with forcing American taxpayers to waste billions of dollars on an expensive and ineffective wall,” Pelosi added.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), who joined Pelosi in the rebuttal, asserted that the president used “the backdrop of the Oval Office to manufacture a crisis, stoke fear, and divert attention from the turmoil in his administration.”
Schumer said the solution to the shutdown was clear — that Trump needed to “separate the shutdown from the arguments over border security.”
“There is bipartisan legislation — supported by Democrats and Republicans — to reopen government while allowing debate over border security to continue. There is no excuse for hurting millions of Americans over a policy difference,” he said.
Schumer went on to say that no president should demand that “he gets his way or else the government shuts down.”
“We don't govern by temper tantrum,” Schumer added.
“President Trump must stop holding the American people hostage, must stop manufacturing a crisis, and must reopen the government,” Pelosi said.
Previously, the president has said that he believes he has the power to declare a national emergency at the southern border, but that his decision would be determined by the ongoing political battle between him and Democrats over border security funding as part of an agreement to reopen the government. Democratic leaders have vowed to to challenge the Trump administration if the president did declare a national emergency, and the issue would most likely go to the federal court. However, during his address Tuesday night, Trump did not declare a national emergency, CNN reports.
According to ABC News, Trump is set to head to Capitol Hill on Wednesday to meet with Senate Republicans and will meet with key Congressional leaders later that day at the White House for the third time during the shutdown.
The White House has said the president plans to travel to the southern border on Thursday to visit with those on the “frontlines” as he continues to argue that the need for a border wall is essential to national security, HuffPost reports.