President Donald Trump called on Congress late on Tuesday to hand him $5.7 billion this year to help build a wall on the US border with Mexico but stopped short of declaring a national emergency to pay for the wall using military funds.
Facing Democratic opposition in Congress to a wall, Trump said during a prime-time televised speech that there was a growing security crisis at the US-Mexico border.
Using straightforward language in an attempt to win public support, Trump said illegal immigrants and drugs flowing across the southern border posed a serious threat to American safety.
“How much more American blood will be shed before Congress does its job?” Trump said after talking about some gruesome details of murders he said were committed by illegal immigrants.
However, after days of hinting he might use presidential powers to declare an emergency as a first step towards directing money for the wall without congressional approval, Trump stated that he would continue seeking a resolution to the apparent deadlock with Congress.
Trump is set to visit the southwest border on Thursday and it was not clear whether he still might choose to make the national emergency declaration.
Trump’s remarks came 18 days into a partial government shutdown precipitated by his demand for the wall, which he has claimed repeatedly is needed to keep out illegal immigrants and drugs.
Democrats and other opponents of a border wall had threatened to take legal action if Trump issued the order.
They say that he is using false claims and manufacturing a crisis to carry out his 2016 presidential campaign promise for a wall that he said at the time would be paid for by Mexico.
The Mexican government has solidly refused to give such funds.
In an attempt to demonstrate flexibility during his 10-minute speech from the White House Oval office, Trump said about the border that he wants to build, “At the request of the Democrats it will be a steel barrier and not a concrete wall.”
However, Democrats have been against not just the construction materials to be used, but the extent of a project that could end up costing more than $24 billion over the long term.
Democrats also argue that a mix of fencing, which already has been constructed in many parts of the border, and higher-tech tools would be cheaper and more effective in securing the border.
Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer and House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi delivered televised rebuttals to Trump’s speech.
Pelosi remarked that Trump had rejected bipartisan legislation to reopen the government agencies that were shuttered as a result of the fight over the wall.
She also blamed the president’s “obsession with forcing American taxpayers to waste billions of dollars on an expensive and ineffective wall – a wall he always promised Mexico would pay for.”