President Donald J. Trump used his first prime-time televised address to the nation Tuesday to resurrect a campaign theme that electrified his political base in the 2016 election.
The only thing missing from Trump’s nine-minute spiel were the words “Build The Wall” and his follow-up question, “Who will pay for it?” The answer in 2016: “Mexico.”
During the primary and general election campaigns, Trump argued that a very high, very long concrete wall along the U.S.-Mexico border would solve this nation’s long-standing immigration crisis.
Republican and Democratic candidates for president blasted Trump, the billionaire real-estate developer from New York City who boasted about his expertise at “building walls,” for offering a simplistic solution to a complicated subject.
But Trump was undaunted then and is just as determined now to make the barrier a reality.
In his address to the nation Tuesday night, the president repeated the argument he has made for a wall: It will prevent people from entering the U.S. illegally and will stem the flow of terrorists, criminals and illegal drugs.
Trump’s focus on terrorists is designed to bolster his contention that America is vulnerable to a terrorist attack similar to the one on Sept. 11, 2001, because terror suspects are sneaking into this country from the south in droves.
However, a State Department report issued in September said there is “no credible evidence indicating that international terrorist groups have established bases in Mexico, worked with Mexican drug cartels or sent operatives via Mexico into the United States.”
It was clear that the president wasn’t interested in garnering public support for comprehensive immigration reform that his predecessors had embraced.
Their efforts failed because Republicans and Democrats in Congress weren’t able to reach agreement on thorny issues such as giving legal status to “Dreamers,” the undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as children.
Billions of dollars
Today, Trump and Democrats in Congress are at an impasse over his demand for $5.7 billion to pay for the wall. Democrats have joined Republicans in offering some money to increase border patrols and upgrade technology for screening individuals and to detect illegal drugs.
But Trump rejected the offer. In so doing, he derailed legislation to fund federal government operations.
As a result, 800,000 federal employees are either working without pay or have been furloughed. The partial government shutdown is in its 20th day.
In his speech, Trump sought to blame Democrats for the shutdown.
But in their response to the president’s address, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., proposed a way out. Pelosi and Schumer said the president should sign bills that have bipartisan support to reopen government agencies and offices. Then, the White House and congressional leaders can deal with the larger issue of border security and Trump’s demand for $5.7 billion.
It is noteworthy that Friday is pay day, but the federal employees who have been working through the shutdown will not receive their checks.
Hardships continue to mount for those who have shown a commitment and dedication to their jobs. Their families are also suffering.
Federal employees are caught in the political crossfire, and the time has come for Trump and Congress to find common ground.
For instance, Democrats have long wanted to provide a path for “Dreamers” to attain legal status.
In 2012, President Barack Obama created the Deferred Action for Child Arrivals (DACA) program through an executive order.
However, President Trump scrapped DACA, leaving 800,000 immigrants in limbo.
The Obama program would have shielded them from deportation, but without such protection they are vulnerable to government edict.
Congress was also unable to find consensus on amnesty for the 11 million immigrants in this country illegally.
During the campaign, Trump said he would order the 11 million illegal immigrants deported. To ensure their departure, he pledged to put them on airplanes, ships, trains and buses and return to their home countries.
Again he was harshly criticized during the campaign for proposing an unworkable plan.
It’s clear that comprehensive immigration reform is the only solution to this humanitarian crisis.