Washington | US President Donald Trump on Friday appeared to be inching closer to imposing a national emergency that could allow him to bypass Congress to fund a controversial wall along the US-Mexico border that has led to a bitter political impasse and a 21-day government shutdown.
Trump has asked for USD 5.6 billion from Congress to construct the border wall, which he said is crucial to stop the flow of illegal immigrants and smuggling of drugs into the country.
The Democrats have repeatedly refused to approve any legislation to fund the wall. The standoff led to the partial government shutdown.
During his visit to the southern border state Texas on Thursday to push for the wall plan, Trump was asked if he is closer to declaring an emergency — an action that would likely face legal challenges.
“We are. I would like to look it broader. I think we could do this quickly because this is common sense and it’s not expensive. We will save the cost of the wall every year but much more than that,” the president said.
Trump had on Wednesday said that imposing a national emergency is the last option and threatened to use it if the Democrats did not allocate USD 5.7 billion funding for the wall.
The president’s inclination towards declaring a national emergency has gained momentum after he walked out of a meeting with top Democratic leaders — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Senator Chuck Schumer — on Wednesday following their refusal to allocate funding.
During an interaction with media personnel in Texas on Thursday, Trump said, “I would like to do a much broader form of immigration, and we can do immigration reform. It’ll take longer. It’s been complex. It’s been going on for 30-35 years, they’ve been talking about immigration reform. But before we do that, we have to create a barrier. That we could do very quickly.”
Contending strongly for construction of a barrier, concrete or steel, along the southern border with Mexico, the president has been claiming that illegal immigrants cause USD 250 billion drain on the American economy.
Republican leaders insist the party stands behind the president, although some Republican lawmakers have spoken out in favour of ending the shutdown.
The opposition Democrats, who are now in majority in the House of Representatives have refused to support such a move arguing that building the wall is a waste of taxpayers’ money.
Referring to his meeting with Reggie Singh, the brother of Indian-origin policeman Ronil Singh killed in California recently allegedly by an illegal immigrant during a border patro, Trump said, “Reggie, I got to know him today a little bit. This shouldn’t be happening in our country.”
“This shouldn’t be happening. And what you see of the border, that’s not as much of a problem as they (illegal immigrants) come through the border and they go out throughout our nation,” Trump said.
“As hard as we work, and as well as we’re doing nationwide on crime, a lot of it is caused by people that come in through the southern border. So, and you know, if we had the barrier, it wouldn’t happen,” he told reporters.
But the Democrats appeared to be unconvinced by Trump’s argument of national emergency.
“If and when the President does that, you’ll find out how we will react, but I’m not going to that place now. But I think the president will have problems on his own side of the aisle for exploiting the situation in a way that enhances his power. But not to go there. Let’s see what he does,” Pelosi told reporters at the Capitol Hill.
Democratic Congresswoman Grace Meng from New York on Thursday announced that a legislation would be introduced in the House of Representatives on Friday to prevent Trump from declaring a national emergency.
Some others said that they will file a lawsuit against national emergency.
Trump said he is ready for the lawsuit and asserted that he will win it.
“I am prepared for anything. The lawyers tell me, like, 100 per cent,” he told reporters.
As the government shutdown neared the end of its third week, the president left Washington with no additional negotiations scheduled with congressional leaders over a possible compromise that could both provide border security and open the government.