WASHINGTON, D.C. – As the deadline for a new fiscal budget looms, President Donald Trump told Democratic leaders on Dec. 11 that he plans to shut down the national government if funding for a southern border wall is not included in the final negotiations.
During a public confrontation with Democratic congressional leaders, the president announced that he vows not to fund the government if his demands to include up to $5 billion to fund construction of a wall along the Mexican border. The wall would be used for security purposes and become a deterrent to illegal immigration, according to Trump.
In a back-and-forth discussion with Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, Trump hastily responded to a comment on the number of times he has told members of Congress his desire to close the government by admitting that he would be “proud to shut down the government for border security.”
“You want to know something?” Trump said to Schumer. “You want to put that on me? I’ll take it. You know what I will say: If we do not get what we want, one way or another, through you or the military or anything you want to call, I will shut down the government.
“People in this country do not want criminals and people who have lots of problems and drugs pouring into our country, so I will take the mantle. I will be the one to shut it down — I’m not going to blame you for it.”
Building the wall would fulfill one of Trump’s campaign promises while continuing his anti-immigration platform that has been a significant focus during his presidency. Measures like the Muslim ban and separating parents from their children when detained by border officials were used to curb illegal immigration and stop terrorists from entering the country.
Weeks before the midterm elections, Trump announced the decision to send the military to the Mexican border to help patrols as a large caravan of people from Central America was heading to the United States to seek asylum.
For Prince George’s County Councilmember Deni Taveras (D-District 2), the president’s message is demeaning towards immigrants and stokes unnecessary fears that are not true.
“The reality is that immigrants are less like to commit a crime than anybody else in this country that is here legally,” Taveras said. “The fact is that immigration levels now are at their lowest levels right now than it was 10 years (ago), so to me, it is political fearmongering from the top of the administration, and this country was built on the backs of immigrants.”
If a deal is not reached by the current Dec. 21 deadline, it will be the first government shutdown since in 2013, which last 16 days and forced 800,000 federal workers to be furloughed and close to 1.3 million people to work without pay.
Recent numbers released by the U.S. Office of Personnel Management show Maryland has the fifth-most full-time federal employees (120,705) who would be affected by a shutdown. The Senate Appropriations Committee reported that a possible shutdown could force 420,000 federal employees nationwide to have to continue to work without pay.
California Representative Nancy Pelosi (D) stressed to the president to reach out to his Republican House members to evaluate a proposal that would add $1.1 billion in border security. However, she added that no funding would be used for the wall.
“We do not want to shut down the government,” Schumer said to Trump. “You have called 20 times to shut down the government; you said, ‘I will shut down the government.’ We don’t. We want to come to an agreement, and if we cannot come to an agreement, we have solutions that will pass the House and Senate right now that will not shut down the government, and that is what we are urging you to do.”
Lawmakers have been working on proposals to keep the government open and to pass a funding bill, but the impasse forced both sides to agree to extend the deadline to Dec. 21.
“That is just skinning the surface,” Senator Chris Van Hollen of Maryland (D) said after hosting residents in a holiday open house party in Largo. “We’re letting people know that we are doing our best and that we have the resources invested here and that we are doing everything we can to avoid a government shutdown in the short term as well.”
Meanwhile, questions have once again surfaced on the Administration’s immigration strategy following the death of a seven-year-old girl on Dec. 8 while under patrol officers custody.
Jakelin Caal was apprehended with her father and a group of 163 undocumented immigrants in New Mexico when she went into shock as they were taken to the Lordsburg Border Patrol Station, according to a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) statement.
She was transported to Providence Children’s Hospital in El Paso, Texas but she died upon arrival. Her father, Nery Caal, said in a press conference that she was healthy and displayed no illnesses during their journey.