Trump ‘100%’ Ready To Shut Down Mexico Border

US President Donald Trump stands prior to receiving a bowl of shamrocks from Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar during a Shamrock Bowl Presentation in honour of St. Patrick’s Day in the East Room of the White House in Washington, DC, March 14, 2019.
SAUL LOEB / AFP

 

President Donald Trump said Tuesday he is “100 per cent” prepared to close down the US-Mexico border, warning Congress and Central American governments to take action to stem the flow of migrants into the country.

Delays were already rising at several key border crossings as Trump ratcheted up pressure on Democrats in Congress to toughen US laws against illegal immigrants, threatening to hurt the US economy in the name of border security.

“It is a national emergency on the border,” Trump said.

If Mexico does not stop migrants from transiting across its territory, and if Congress does not act, he said, “the border’s going to be closed, 100 per cent.”

“Sure it’s going to have a negative impact on the economy,” he said. “Security is more important to me than trade.”

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Trump said Democrats were blocking reforms for political reasons but could fix the problem “in 45 minutes.”

He was not specific, but Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen has asked Congress to give border officials the power to forcibly repatriate Central American illegal immigrants, including children who arrived alone, back to their countries.

The threat to close the border, which handled some $612 billion worth of trade in 2018, sent shivers through the economy and drew warnings from allies of the president.

“Closing down the border would have a potentially catastrophic economic impact on our country, and I would hope we would not be doing that sort of thing,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Tuesday.

100,000 Migrants A Month

Homeland Security officials said they were preparing for the possibility of a shutdown of at least some border entry points as they divert staff to deal with the flood of migrants from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, expected to hit nearly 100,000 a month.

Nielsen cut short an official trip to Europe to return for meetings early Tuesday on the border crisis, and on Monday Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan said he would be meeting Nielsen and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on the crisis.

Officials said facilities for handling the migrants — who for the moment cannot be sent back after they cross the border and request asylum — are overtaxed and understaffed, creating hazardous conditions.

“We are in a full-blown emergency. The bottom line is all options are on the table right now,” a senior Homeland Security official, who declined to be named, told journalists Tuesday.

“The volume of vulnerable populations that are arriving is unsustainable… The humanitarian situation cannot be ignored and the security situation cannot be ignored.”

Trump said Mexican officials had reacted to his threat to close the border last week by clamping down on the caravans of migrants fleeing poverty and violence in the three Central American countries.

Mexico “made a big step over the past two days,” he said, adding that they would have to continue if they don’t want the border closed.

He also defended his decision to cut off “hundreds of millions of dollars” in US aid to the three countries, accusing them of arranging the caravans of migrants.

The three “don’t do anything for us,” he said. “They’re taking advantage of the United States. So I cut off the payments yesterday,” Trump said.

Long Lines At Border Ports

On Monday Nielsen ordered an “emergency surge” of personnel to deal with the situation, including moving 750 staff to areas of the border where the migrants arrive.

Many were being diverted from official ports, leading to slowdowns in processing arriving visitors and commercial vehicles.

Delays for incoming traffic were three hours at Brownsville, Texas, for the second straight day, and over two hours in other areas.

White House chief economist Larry Kudlow though said they were working to minimize the economic impact from a closure of the border — including keeping truck lanes open.

“The question is, can we deal with that and not have any economic damage?” he said on CNBC.

“I think the answer is we can and people are looking at different options, particularly if you can keep those freight lanes, those truck lanes open.”

AFP

 

Trump Climbs Down In Wall Row, Congress Passes Bill Ending Shutdown

File Photo: US President Donald Trump speaks about the government shutdown on January 25, 2019.
Brendan SMIALOWSKI / AFP

 

President Donald Trump on Friday brought a temporary end to the longest government shutdown in US history while dropping his previous insistence on immediate funding for wall construction along the Mexican border.

The announcement in the White House Rose Garden on the bipartisan deal marked a retreat by Trump, suspending a row that paralyzed Washington, disrupted air travel, and left more than 800,000 federal employees without pay for five weeks.

The top Democratic senator, Chuck Schumer, said he hoped Trump had “learned his lesson.”

The Senate and House of Representatives both passed the deal by unanimous consent Friday. The White House later confirmed Trump had signed it into law.

Trump’s reversal came as the full weight of the shutdown, including the financial cost on struggling employees and the national economy, became clear, and as the president appeared outfoxed by his political nemesis Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic speaker of the House of Representatives.

But while Trump climbed down in agreeing to reopen government without first getting $5.7 billion in border wall funds, he still threatened to renew hostilities with a new shutdown or a state of emergency, if there is no breakthrough on his pet project in the next three weeks.

“Over the next 21 days, I expect that both Democrats and Republicans will operate in good faith,” he said as he announced he would reopen the government.

“If we don’t get a fair deal from Congress, the government either shuts down on February 15th again, or I will use the powers afforded to me under the laws and Constitution of the United States to address this emergency,” he warned.

“We really have no choice but to build a powerful wall or steel barrier.”

S&P Global Ratings said late Friday that the shutdown cost “is likely worse than what we had previously expected.”

Based on their analysis, “the US economy lost at least $6 billion … larger than the $5.7 billion that the White House requested for the border wall,” it said in a statement.

Shutdown pain

Trump triggered the shutdown in December to pressure congressional Democrats to give him funding for the border wall.

But the House Democrats calculated that voters would blame Trump for the ensuing chaos — and polls showed they were correct.

Federal workers as varied as museum employees and US Coast Guard sailors were left without salaries. Even Secret Service agents guarding the White House have been working without pay.

By Friday the shutdown impact was focused on airports, where enough federally employed security staff had called in sick to slow down overall operations.

Air traffic controllers were working without pay and in New Jersey’s busy Newark Liberty International Airport staffing issues led to delays, raising the spectre of a wider degradation of US air travel.

This raised pressure to reach a deal — and Trump buckled, even at the risk of angering his right-wing voter base.

Conservative commentator Ann Coulter wasted no time in lashing out.

“Good news for George Herbert Walker Bush: As of today, he is no longer the biggest wimp ever to serve as President of the United States,” she tweeted, referring to the late president, a Republican moderate.

No way out

Trump says more border walls are needed to stop what he says are crisis levels of criminals and illegal immigration. Democrats say his focus on the wall distracts from more complex immigration problems and is used to whip up his base for political gain.

On Thursday, two competing bills to end the partial shutdown failed in the Senate, underscoring the inability of Democrats and Trump’s Republicans to agree on a compromise that to reopen government and commit to wall construction.

Trump has spoken for weeks about using his presidential authority to declare a border emergency and bypass Congress, allowing himself to take funds from other sources for the wall.

However, this would almost certainly be challenged in court.

So while Trump had said he would not “cave” in the standoff, the president was left with little alternative.

At his White House announcement, Trump sought to thank the federal workers who suffered as collateral damage in the political battle, saying they showed “extraordinary devotion in the face of this recent hardship.”

But Tiffany Cruz, who works at LaGuardia Airport in New York, which was also badly hit by delays, said she had little faith in Trump.

“He’s just reopening (government) at his convenience,” she said. “I don’t believe he cares about anything but himself.”

With the shutdown ending, the question arises whether Trump will be re-invited to deliver his State of the Union address in Congress next Tuesday.

Pelosi, who outfoxed him in the five-week showdown, had insisted he not deliver his speech until the government reopened. On Friday she said the schedule remained undecided.

Malaysia PM Cites Trump To Defend Israeli Athlete Ban

Prime Minister of Malaysia Mahathir bin Mohamad at a meeting in Vienna on January 21, 2019. HANS PUNZ / APA / AFP

 

Malaysia’s Prime Minister, Mahathir Mohamad, on Tuesday, defended the country’s ban on Israeli athletes, likening it to US President Donald Trump’s plan to build a wall along the US-Mexico border.

Malaysia sparked a row with Israel after saying it would not allow Israeli swimmers to compete in a tournament later this year that serves as a qualifying event for the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics.

“Every country has the right to accept or refuse entry of anybody,” Mahathir told a press conference in Vienna on Tuesday.

“You can see that in America now they are erecting a very high wall to prevent Mexicans from going to America,” he said.

“We have the same idea, that people who are undesirable for our country will be kept out of our country,” Mahathir added.

Last week Israel said the decision was motivated by “rabid anti-Semitism” on Mahathir’s part.

Mahathir, now 93 and in his second stint as premier, has in the past attracted criticism for verbal attacks on Jews.

Last week he denied accusations of anti-Semitism, saying: “It is my right to tell them they have been doing a lot of wrong things. Why can’t we say anything against Israel, against the Jews?”.

On Tuesday he branded Israel “a criminal country”, adding: “If their people want to compete in sport, they can go to some other country.”

Israel has called on the International Paralympic Committee to challenge the decision or change the venue of the competition.

Kuala Lumpur, which has no formal diplomatic ties with Israel, has rejected pleas from the world sporting body to find a solution to the row.

Malaysia has stopped Israeli athletes from competing in a sports event before. Two Israeli windsurfers had to pull out of a competition on Langkawi island after they were refused visas in 2015.

Trump Pushes Wall Plan In US-Mexico Border Visit

US President Donald Trump speaks after he received a briefing on border security next to Sen. John Cornyn(L) R-TX and Sen. Ted Cruz(2ndR) R-TX near the Rio Grande in McAllen, Texas, on January 10, 2019. Jim WATSON / AFP

 

US President, Donald Trump on Thursday travelled to the US-Mexico border as part of his all-out offensive to build a wall.

The day before, he had stormed out of negotiations when Democratic opponents refused to agree to fund the project in exchange for an end to a painful government shutdown.

Read Also: Trump Storms Out Of Talks With Democrats On Border Wall

Trump Threatens To Uphold Shutdown Until Wall Is Funded

 

President Donald Trump vowed Tuesday he would not reopen the government until he gets $5 billion to fund his border wall, as the partial government shutdown dragged into a fourth day.

Trump’s demand for a physical barrier on the US-Mexico border — a pillar of his election platform — has been rejected by Democrats and some Republicans. In retaliation, Trump refused last week to sign a wider spending bill, temporarily stripping funding from swaths of the government.

“I can’t tell you when the government is going to be open,” the Republican president told reporters at the White House after his annual Christmas teleconference with US troops.

“I can tell you it’s not going to be open until we have a wall, a fence, whatever they’d like to call it.”

READ ALSO: Queen Elizabeth Calls For Christmas Calm In Brexit Storm

Trump reaffirmed a claim made on Twitter Monday that he had approved a contract for the construction of 115 miles (185 kilometers) of wall in Texas, although the White House has not offered any details on the project.

He said he would visit that stretch of the border “at the end of January for the start of construction.”

“It’s going to be built, hopefully rapidly,” he said.

The president said he aimed to have a barrier stretching across 500 to 550 miles of the 2,000-mile border, and “to have it either renovated or brand new by election time.”

“It’s going to all workout,” he said, adding that some furloughed federal workers also favor the construction of border wall Trump says will discourage illegal immigration.

Top Senate Democrat Chuck Schumer said at the weekend the president “must abandon the wall, plain and simple” to reopen the government.

Trump ended the session by railing against the Democrats and former FBI director James Comey, whom he sacked in May 2017 in a move he later said stemmed from frustration over the federal investigation into possible ties between the Trump campaign Russian interference in the 2016 US vote.

“It’s a disgrace, what’s happening in our country,” Trump said. “But other than that, I wish everybody a very Merry Christmas.”

US Govt Shutdown Enters Second Day, Set To Last Through Christmas

FILE PHOTO: A shoe shine stand inside the U.S. Capitol displays a sign that reads, closed due to lapse in appropriations, on January 22, 2018, in Washington, DC. PHOTO: Mark Wilson/Getty Images/AFP

 

A partial US government shutdown that entered its second day on Sunday was set to stretch through Christmas after Congress adjourned for the weekend with no deal in sight to end an impasse over funding for President Donald Trump’s wall on the US-Mexico border.

Due to the shutdown — in which several key US agencies ceased operations at 12:01 am (0501 GMT) on Saturday — Trump said he would remain in Washington over Christmas instead of going to Florida.

“I am in the White House, working hard,” the Republican president tweeted. “We are negotiating with the Democrats on desperately needed Border Security (Gangs, Drugs, Human Trafficking & more) but it could be a long stay.”

Trump has dug in on his demand for $5 billion for construction of the border wall, a signature campaign promise and part of his effort to reduce illegal immigration. Democrats are staunchly opposed, and the absence of a deal meant federal funds for dozens of agencies lapsed at midnight Friday.

The House of Representatives and the Senate held sessions on Saturday, but both chambers adjourned without agreement, and no votes were expected until Thursday.

Visitors to the capital’s park-like National Mall, home to attractions including war memorials and the towering Washington Monument, criticized the shutdown which added to an air of chaos in a capital still reeling from Defense Secretary Jim Mattis’s resignation last week over Trump policies.

The uncertainty also helped pushed Wall Street into another rout on Friday, ending its worst week in a decade.

“Oh I think it’s ridiculous. It’s unnecessary,” Philip Gibbs, a retired business professor from South Virginia, said of the shutdown.

Jeffrey Grignon, a Wisconsin healthcare worker, said the politicians “need to stop acting like children” and do the work they were elected to do.

“It isn’t just one or two people. It’s all them,” he said.

The year’s third shutdown

Another visitor, Howard Vander Griend, 57, predicted Trump will come out a winner from the budget impasse.

“I don’t think the shutdown will pressure president Trump at all,” said Vander Griend, of Tennessee. “So I think he will get what he wants and I think that’s a good thing.”

Although tourists could still stroll along the Mall and visit its open-air sites, they found public restrooms closed. Some other Washington tourist sites including the White House Visitor Center, National Christmas Tree, and National Archives — home to the US Constitution and other historic documents — were closed.

Some national parks have shuttered completely, but New York’s governor provided funding to the Statue of Liberty monument and Ellis Island so those attractions could remain open.

This is the third partial government shutdown of the year, even though Trump’s own Republican party still controls both the House and Senate.

That will change in January when the House comes under Democratic control.

Top Senate Democrat Chuck Schumer blamed the president for provoking the latest furlough.

“The Trump shutdown isn’t over border security; it’s because President Trump is demanding billions of dollars for an expensive, ineffective wall that the majority of Americans don’t support,” Schumer said.

Most critical US security functions remain operational, but 800,000 federal workers are affected, with many furloughed before Christmas. Others deemed essential, including Transportation Security Administration officers screening passengers during the holiday crush, are working unpaid.

Governor Ralph Northam of Virginia — a state bordering the US capital that is home to many federal employees — urged Trump in a letter Saturday to push immediate action to end the shutdown, saying it “inflicts real harm” on workers.

“I share your desire for strong economic growth throughout the United States, but the current partial government shutdown makes it harder to achieve this goal,” the Democratic governor said.

Demands from conservatives

About three-quarters of the government, including the military and the Department of Health and Human Services, is fully funded until the end of September 2019, leaving 25 per cent unfunded as of Saturday.

One focus of last-minute discussions was $1.6 billion in border security support that was a part of pending Senate legislation, number two Senate Republican John Cornyn told AFP. Conservatives in the House would likely balk at that figure.

Trump had reversed course Thursday and rejected a measure that had unanimously passed the Senate and was under House consideration. It would have extended government funding until February 8 to allow time for debate about issues including border security, but it contained no money for a wall.

With ultra-conservative lawmakers and media commentators demanding that the president sticks to his campaign promises, Trump stood his ground on the wall.

The House then swiftly passed a bill that fulfilled the president’s demands and included $5.7 billion in wall funding, but it stalled at the first hurdle in the Senate.

AFP

New Barricades At US-Mexico Border As Migrant Caravan Arrives

Honduran caravan members look through the fence at the US-Mexico border wall at Friendship park in San Ysidro, California on November 18, 2018.

 

Huge metal or concrete barricades and walls of concertina wire went up on Monday on both sides of a bustling US-Mexico border crossing as a caravan of US-bound Central American migrants pours into Tijuana, the last stop before California.

US authorities went so far as to briefly close the San Ysidro Port of Entry altogether — it is one of the busiest land border crossings in the world — as the new barriers were set up, triggering total gridlock for vehicles and pedestrians going from Tijuana across into San Diego.

“It was as if time stopped. Nothing is moving. Neither cars, nor people, nor my business,” said Armando Lopez, who sells newspapers, cigarettes and candy on the Mexican side.

US Customs and Border Protection “suspended operations to safely place impediments at the port of entry that would restrict access to a large group attempting to run through the border crossing,” the agency said in a statement, referring to the migrant caravan.

President Donald Trump has characterized the caravan’s journey as an invasion, making it a central plank of his anti-immigrant platform.

The thousands-strong group set out more than a month ago from Honduras, fleeing poverty and gang violence and sometimes forcing its way across borders as the migrants head toward the US.

Some 3,500 migrants have arrived so far in Tijuana and another 3,000 are expected to start flowing in as of Tuesday. Most of those making the trek are Hondurans.

The big question is whether, once they are all together, they will try to cross over as they did from Guatemala into Mexico — by force — or opt instead for the long and tedious process of requesting asylum in the US.

Economy in danger

After putting the new barriers in place at the border crossing, the authorities reopened it partially to northbound traffic.

On the Mexican side, too, metal barricades and concertina wire were put up. Federal police and soldiers patrolled the area.

“I am OK with these defenses,” said Arturo Gonzalez, a 35-year-old American who was losing his patience as he sat in his black pickup truck waiting to get into California.

He works as a janitor in a school in the US but lives in Mexico because the rent is cheaper here.

“Because of those Hondurans, we are paying the price. They should be thrown out,” Gonzalez said.

Walking swiftly through the pedestrian conduit toward California, Ana Maria Gutierrez, who is Mexican, was in a hurry to get to her job as a nurse in a psychiatric facility in San Diego.

“They do not realize the impact of closing the border,” she told AFP.

“It is not just the economy that is in danger of dying out. We are talking about the lives of people and families,” Gutierrez said before showing her papers to the US border authorities and entering California.

“Bad hombres”

Mexico and the United States share a border that stretches along more than 3,000 kilometers (1,800 miles) of desert and is crossed by undocumented travelers, drugs and weapons.

But a million people also cross over legally each day, while trade across the frontier totals a million dollars a minute, according to government figures.

At the San Ysidro port alone, 70,000 vehicles make their way into California each day, as do 15,000 students and 25,000 workers.

Trump has sent about 5,800 troops to the border to forestall the arrival of the caravan. During the campaign leading to his election in 2016 he referred to Mexican migrants crossing over as rapists and “bad hombres.”

Trump has also issued a new order under which people who do not cross at official points of entry can no longer apply for asylum. This was challenged in court and a judge Monday night temporarily barred the Trump administration from enacting the ban.

At another border crossing, between Laredo, Texas and Nuevo Laredo, US soldiers have also set up many reels of concertina wire.

Amelia Prados, a Mexican who works in a bank in Tijuana, said the migrants were simply seeking to escape violence and find a better life.

“The United States is defending itself from a danger that does not exist,” she said.

AFP

Republican Debate: Trump’s Immigration Plan Savaged By Rivals

trumpPolitical opponents have tagged United States (US) Republican, Donald Trump’s plan to deport 11 million undocumented immigrants from the US as impractical and divisive.

In a live television debate, two of his Republican rivals, who are also fighting for presidential nomination, John Kasich and Jeb Bush, were very critical of Mr Trump’s immigration plans.

Mr Trump, a billionaire New Yorker who has been leading in the polls, was booed as he tried to counter-attack.

Another source of friction at the debate in Milwaukee was foreign policy.

The eight candidates were divided on whether the US should do more to intervene in the Middle East, especially in the fight against Islamic State (IS) militants.

But immigration sparked the biggest confrontation when Mr Trump said that a wall should be built at the US-Mexico border, and all migrants living illegally in the US must be deported.