In the televised address from the Oval Office on January 8, 2019, President Donald Trump said that there is a humanitarian and security crisis at the southern border, and he called on members of Congress to allocate $5.7 billion to build a wall or steel barrier to protect the nation. He said, “At the request of Democrats, it will be a steel barrier rather than a concrete wall. This barrier is absolutely critical to border security. It’s also what our professionals at the border want and need.”
In making his case for the barrier, Trump said that individuals who enter the country without legal permission from the southern border strain public resources and reduce job availability and wages. He also said that some drugs and criminals enter the country through the southern border, harming Americans.
In response to those, including Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who “have suggested a barrier is immoral,” Trump said, “Then why do wealthy politicians build walls, fences, and gates around their homes? They don’t build walls because they hate the people on the outside, but because they love the people on the inside. The only thing that is immoral is the politicians to do nothing and continue to allow more innocent people to be so horribly victimized.”
The address took place on the 18th day of a partial government shutdown. Trump said that he would not sign legislation to reopen the federal government if it did not include border funding.
Immediately after Trump’s speech, Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), issued a televised response rejecting Trump’s request for a border wall and calling on him to reopen the government. Pelosi said, “President Trump must stop holding the American people hostage, must stop manufacturing a crisis, and must reopen the government.”
Schumer said that Democrats support border security measures, but “disagree with the president about the most effective way to do it.” Schumer also criticized Trump for creating a crisis that he said did not exist. Schumer said, “This president just used the backdrop of the Oval Office to manufacture a crisis, stoke fear, and divert attention from the turmoil in his administration.”
In his address, Trump did not declare a national emergency over border security, something he is considering if Congress refuses to fund the requested border barrier. “Federal law allows the president to halt military construction projects and divert those funds for the emergency,” according to The Wall Street Journal. Democrats said that they would challenge Trump’s declaration in court if issued.