Trump calls for 'steel barrier' as a solution to a 'crisis of the heart and soul'

Matt Saintsing
January 08, 2019 - 9:56 pm

U.S. Army photo by Spc. Ethan Valetski

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President Donald Trump said the ongoing government shutdown will continue until Congress funds border security, including a "steel barrier," in his first national address Tuesday night. 

Immigration was tied to the war on drugs and crime as Trump defended a physical barrier along the US's southern border with Mexico, in what he referred to as a "crisis of the heart and soul." 

He listed methamphetamine, cocaine, heroin, and fentanyl as the illegal substances pouring over the border claiming U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers made more than 260,000 arrests last year at the border. 

Also, he said heinous violence is rampant, including sex crimes and "violent killings." 

"Thousands of more lives will be lost if we don't act now," he said. "This is the cycle of human suffering that I intend to end." 

Trump also defended the morality of a "steel barrier," but stopped short of calling for a wall. He framed the barrier as a compromise and went so far as to say that Democrats preferred the steel material to concrete when in reality Democrats have consistently voiced their opposition to any wall or physical barrier. 

The president did not declare a national emergency, an idea that was floated earlier in the week. He instead, doubled-down on the idea that Mexico will pay for the barrier, albeit "indirectly." 

“The wall will also be paid for indirectly by the great new trade deal we have made with Mexico," said Trump, who claimed countless times on the campaign trail that the country would pay the bill for a border wall. 

He said the new revamped NAFTA Deal, dubbed the USMCA, will generate enough money to pay for the wall. Congress has yet to appropriate the funds, and the trade deal has not been ratified. 

"The federal government remains shut down for one reason because Democrats will not fund border security," he added. 

He says Congressional leadership is expected to visit the White House on Wednesday to continue negotiations to re-open the government. Such talks have yet to appear to move any needle either on the issue of border security or passing legislation that would fully fund the government. 

"How much more American blood must we shed before Congress does their job?" he asked. 

Democrats Respond

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (N.Y.) said in their rebuttal to Trump that his speech was "full of misinformation and even malice" stoking the politics of fear. 

The Democratic duo also placed the burden of the partial shutdown squarely on Trump's shoulders. "First, Democrats passed legislation to reopen the government, but Trump rejected bipartisan bills over his obsession of the American taxpayers 'to pay for a border wall", Pelosi said. 

She said victims of the shutdown are government workers who are struggling to pay their bills, "many of them veterans". 

She appeared to expose daylight between Trump's "crisis" and the reality of who is arriving at the border. 

"Women and children at the border are not a security threat, they are a humanitarian challenge," said Pelosi. 

Schumer added that Trump failed to get Mexico to pay for the "unnecessary" wall and that he is appealing to "fear, not facts. Division, not unity." 

"The symbol of America should be the Statue of Liberty, not a 30-foot wall," Schumer said in closing. 

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