Friday 20 September 2019

I'll shut border with Mexico if I don't get my wall - Trump

No barrier: Central American migrants cross the US-Mexico border fence from Tijuana to San Diego County. Photo: Getty Images
No barrier: Central American migrants cross the US-Mexico border fence from Tijuana to San Diego County. Photo: Getty Images

David Morgan

US President Donald Trump has threatened to close the US border with Mexico unless Congress agrees to provide $5bn (€4.37bn) for his controversial wall.

Mr Trump also blamed Democrats for a partial government shutdown he previously said would be his responsibility.

A dispute over funding for Mr Trump's proposed wall has led to "non-essential" operations at numerous agencies being closed for lack of funding. With Congress adjourned until next week, there is no prospect of a quick resolution.

"We will be forced to close the Southern Border entirely if the Obstructionist Democrats do not give us the money to finish the Wall & also change the ridiculous immigration laws that our Country is saddled with," Mr Trump tweeted.

"Either we build (finish) the Wall or we close the Border," he added.

The stand-off over Mr Trump's demand for money to help fund the wall, estimated to cost about $23bn (€20bn) in total, was in its seventh day yesterday and is widely expected to drag into January when Democrats take control of the House of Representatives.

Asked about Mr Trump's border-closing threat, Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador insisted it was an internal US government matter. "We take great care of the relationship with the government of the United States," Mr Lopez Obrador said.

"Of course we will always defend our sovereignty. We will always protect migrants, defend their human rights," he said.

Earlier this month, the Republican president said he would be "proud" to shut down the government over border security.

In TV interviews yesterday, Trump aides blamed Democrats for the continuing shutdown, claiming they had refused to negotiate since the White House made an offer last weekend.

"We're here, and they know where to find us," said Mick Mulvaney, the White House chief of staff. "Where is Chuck Schumer? Where is Nancy Pelosi? They're not even talking right now," he said. Mr Schumer is the top Democrat in the Senate and Mr Pelosi is the incoming speaker of the House of Representatives.

A spokesman for Mr Schumer said the White House had been told there were three existing federal proposals containing funds for border security that could pass both the House and the Senate - and that Mr Trump should accept one of those.

At present, however, the two sides remain far apart, Mr Schumer's office said.

Democrats have offered support for $1.3bn in funding for general border security, but have long opposed the building of a wall.

If the stalemate persists, House Democrats led by Ms Pelosi plan to immediately offer a funding measure to re-open the government when they take office on January 3.

According to a Reuters/Ipsos poll this week, 47pc of Americans hold Trump responsible for the shutdown, while 33pc blame Democrats in Congress.

The shutdown affects approximately 800,000 employees of the Departments of Homeland Security, Justice, Agriculture, Commerce, and other agencies.

Most of the federal government, which directly employs almost four million people, is unaffected. Even agencies that are affected never totally close, with workers deemed "essential" still performing their duties.

Mr Trump, who scrapped plans to spend Christmas in his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida and stayed in Washington due to the shutdown, had now also cancelled his New Year's plans, Mr Mulvaney said.

Chris Krueger, an analyst at financial firm Cowen's Washington Research Group, said in a commentary note: "We see little chance of a breakthrough before the Democrats take control of the House on January 3."

Meanwhile, British Home Secretary Sajid Javid has said the fast-growing number of would-be immigrants crossing the English Channel from France in dinghies is a "major incident".

Nearly 70 people have been intercepted in the past three days as they try to reach England by crossing one of the world's busiest shipping lanes.

After two boats carrying 12 men from Syria and Iran were intercepted while they attempted to make the crossing yesterday, Mr Javid also appointed a "gold commander" to oversee the situation and give daily updates.

An inflatable boat, carrying one Syrian and three Iranians, was reported to the Coastguard at around 3am. And at around 9am a second boat, carrying eight Iranians, was also spotted.

On Christmas Day more than 40 migrants tried to cross the sea and enter the UK.

Irish Independent

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