President Donald Trump has attempted to persuade US citizens to support his border wall project through a statement made on all major American TV channels.
Trump attempts to bypass congress
Trump and the White House have been searching for a way to bypass congress and implement a $5.7bn (£4.5bn) spending plan for the wall without their approval, as they have already rejected the plan.
Trump used the wall as a signature pledge during his election campaign, and said that he would make Mexico pay for it. However, his demand was not met by the Mexican government, and Trump took the government into shutdown to find funds to pay for themselves.
So far 800,000 public sector staff are currently without pay, and have been since before Christmas.
Trump is looking to secure funding of $5.7bn, but has previously admitted that it could cost $10bn (£7.8bn) if it isn’t made “super-duper”, whilst other estimates put the cost at almost $25bn (16.6bn).
US-Mexico border a “humanitarian” crisis
Trump said in his speech that the situation on the US-Mexico border was a “humanitarian and security crisis”. The main proponent of his speech was to discuss the drugs brought through the border, and their affect on US citizens.
The President claimed that 90% of heroin in the US was brought in through Mexico, however US government officials have said in the past that a vast majority is smuggled through legal entry points.
“Our southern border is a pipeline for vast quantities of illegal drugs, including meth, heroin, cocaine, and fentanyl. Every week, 300 of our citizens are killed by heroin alone, 90 percent of which floods across from our southern border. More Americans will die from drugs this year than were killed in the entire Vietnam War.”
Trump also said that he has invited members of congress to the White House to discuss the matter in the hopes that a resolution could be found.
“This situation could be solved in a 45-minute meeting. I have invited Congressional leadership to the White House tomorrow to get this done. Hopefully, we can rise above partisan politics in order to support national security.”
Democrats respond to Trump
In a brief rebuttal, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer demanded that Mr Trump end the shutdown.
Mrs Pelosi said: “The fact is the women and children at the border are not a security threat, they are a humanitarian challenge.”
“And the fact is President Trump must stop holding the American people hostage, must stop manufacturing a crisis, and must reopen the government.”
Mr Schumer accused Mr Trump of trying to “govern by temper tantrum”. “President Trump has appealed to fear, not facts. Division, not unity,” the New York senator said.
He concluded: “The symbol of America should be the Statue of Liberty, not a 30-foot wall.”
Democrats argue that maintenance of existing border fencing, hi-tech tools to scan vehicles crossing at ports of entry, and hiring more personnel would be cheaper and more effective than a wall.