Trump pushes for border wall in Texas with shutdown nearing record





Washington - By Gretel Johnston and Eliyahu Kamisher, - US President Donald Trump travelled Thursday to Texas for a visit to the US-Mexico border as he intensifies his push for a wall, a demand that the opposition Democrats in Congress flat-out reject.



 
The stalemate over funding the wall has resulted in a partial government shutdown that will reach day 21 on Friday, tying a record for the longest government shutdown in US history.
Trump held a roundtable discussion with border guards, local politicians and fellow Republicans who testified to the need for building a wall or barrier to stop illegal immigration, human trafficking and the flow of illicit drugs.
"It's clearly a crisis," Trump said. "A lot of the crime in our country is [committed] by people who are coming through right here."
Seated next to Trump was the brother of a California police officer who was killed December 26 by a man who authorities said was in the country illegally.
Trump has cited incidents like the killing of the offier, the epidemic of drug addition and the brutality of human traffickers as examples of crime that he claims a wall would greatly curtail.
"All I can tell you is I feel very badly for people that have family members that have been killed," he said. "This shouldn't be happening in our country."
He said again Thursday he might declare a national emergency in order to circumvent Democrats in Congress who are blocking funding for a wall.
"I'm not prepared to do that yet, but if I have to do that, I will," Trump said.
The controversial move would certainly face legal challenges as experts and Democratic lawmakers say the situation on the US-Mexico border does not constitute a national emergency.
Trump said he didn't know how long the government shutdown will last, but claimed that top congressional Democrats Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer "know they are losing the argument."
Pelosi, speaking at the Capitol, stressed that Democrats value border security but want the spending to focus on surveillance technology and other proven fixes.
A wall is "a luxury our country can’t afford under any circumstances," she said.
Democrats have appealed to Republicans to accept an offer to re-open government immediately and then negotiate a solution to border seurity. The president has rejected the strategy because he believes Democrats would renege on a promise to take up the matter within 30 days.
Also on Thursday, Trump tweeted that he will not attend the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, later this month "because of the Democrats' intransigence on border security." 
Trump told reporters before departing from Texas that he would not attend the economic conference "if the shutdown continues" indicating that there is no end in site to the budget impasse.
The dispute centres on 5.7 billion dollars Trump wants Congress to approve for building a wall. Democrats have refused to fund the wall, slamming the proposed barrier as ineffective and a waste of tax dollars.
The partial shutdown has meant hundreds of thousands of US government employees are staying home or working without pay. The last time a shutdown lasted 21 days was in 1995-96.
A few hundred government employees took out their frustrations Thursday in a demonstration in front of the White House to protest the continued stalemate.
"The majority of Americans don't support this policy. They don't support the wall, they don't support the shutdown," Matt Aubuchon, who works for the Environmental Protection Agency, told dpa.
His colleague Holly Arrigoni, who was with him at the demonstration, agreed.
"We just want to get back to work," Arrigoni said.

Friday, January 11th 2019
By Gretel Johnston and Eliyahu Kamisher,
           


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