Two and a half weeks in to the partial United States government shutdown, President Donald Trump addressed the nation. He gave a televised broadcast from the Oval Office on Tuesday night. The focus of the President’s speech was the need for Congress to approve funding for dramatically improved security along the country’s southern border.
Limiting illegal immigration into the United States and better control of legal entry points were central elements of Mr. Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign. He promised then to oversee the construction of an impassable border wall to prevent human migration into the United States except at legal check points. During the campaign, Mr. Trump confidently suggested that he could secure funding for the wall from Mexico. He did not share details then about how that funding would come about.
The President has, instead, requested that Congress approve $5.7 billion in the American budget to fund immigration-related security improvements. This money would go toward not only a physical barrier at the border. It would provide for more law enforcement personnel and better technology to detect drugs that are often smuggled into the United States from south of the border.
In the speech, Mr. Trump listed four main concerns that illegal or inadequately monitored immigration is directly affecting:
1) American jobs—illegal and undocumented workers may take employment from legal residents, and do so without paying taxes on the wages they earn;
2) Drugs—90% of all illegal drugs entering the United States come across the southern border, the President claims;
3) Violent crime—according to the President, many assaults and other violent crimes were committed by illegal immigrants who should have been restricted from entry;
4) Safety of migrant women and children—an open border encourages unprotected women and children to attempt the dangerous journey across Central America and Mexico to reach the United States. The President says those women and children put themselves at risk of attack or harassment along the way. He added that kidnappers have too much freedom to smuggle children in both directions across the border.
The President called the construction of a border wall a “common sense” solution. He suggested that reducing the flow of illegal drugs by constructing a wall and using better drug-detection technology would positively impact the United States economy. Mr. Trump said that the money spent on fighting drugs and its effects in the country could more than pay for the barrier he and the majority of his supporters want. He believes his plan is essential to protecting the American way of life.
Finally, the President asked members of Congress to approve his budget request so that the government shutdown could be lifted. After the speech, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer responded. He downplayed the urgency of the President’s concerns and suggested that the President should end the shutdown first. Then, Mr. Shumer proposed, members of Congress could come to a compromised agreement to address security issues.
(President Donald Trump speaks from the Oval Office of the White House as he gives a televised prime-time address about border security on Tuesday, Jan. 8, 2019, in Washington, D.C. AP Photo)