Photo taken on Jan. 8, 2019 shows the White House in Washington D.C., the United States. U.S. President Donald Trump claimed there was a "growing humanitarian crisis" on the U.S. border with Mexico in a televised speech Tuesday night amid a partisan fight over his proposed border barrier. (Xinhua/Ting Shen)
U.S. President Donald Trump claimed there was a "growing humanitarian crisis" on the U.S. border with Mexico in a televised speech Tuesday night amid a partisan fight over his proposed border barrier.
In his first national address from the Oval Office since assuming presidency, Trump described the situation on the southern border as "a crisis of the heart, a crisis of the soul," making his case that a "steel barrier" is "absolutely critical for border security."
The president's remarks came amid his contentious fight with congressional Democratic lawmakers over the appropriation of more than 5 billion U.S. dollars he demanded for erecting the barrier to keep out illegal migrants and drug traffickers.
The dispute caused a lapse in congressional appropriations for nine cabinet-level departments and other federal agencies, triggering a partial government shutdown that has entered the 18th day.
In his speech, Trump laid out a number of unchecked examples to bolster what he said was a "tremendous problem" on the border, including harm inflicted on children, sexual assaults against women, drugs that poured into the United States. His opponents have called his argument an exaggeration of reality.
The Democrats have characterized Trump's wall funding request as "an immorality." Trump rebutted that accusation in his speech by saying "the only thing that is immoral is the politicians to do nothing and continue to allow more innocent people to be so horribly victimized."
On the shutdown, Trump said, "The federal government remains shut down for one reason and one reason only: because Democrats will not fund border security."
In fact, House Democrats passed two separate bills on Jan. 3 aimed at resuming the function of the federal offices that have been paralyzed. Since neither of the bills included the wall funding money, the Republican-controlled Senate refused to take them up.
"My administration is doing everything in our power to help those impacted by the situation. But the only solution is for Democrats to pass a spending bill that defends our borders and re-opens the government," Trump said.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer jointly responded to Trump's speech immediately after its conclusion, accusing the president of "manufacturing a crisis" and urging him to reopen the government.
Schumer said Trump "just used the backdrop of the Oval Office to manufacture a crisis, stoke fear and divert attention from the turmoil in his administration."
He said Democrats agree with the president that border security has to be strengthened, but "sharply disagree with the president about the most effective way to do it."
Pelosi said the president resorted to misinformation and "even malice" to disseminate his message during the shutdown, urging him to "stop holding the American people hostage."
"The president has chosen fear. We want to start with the facts," she added.
Trump said he has invited congressional leaders to the White House for discussion Wednesday, boasting that the stalemate can be solved "in a 45-minute meeting."
The president has over the past few days been threatening to use his executive power to declare a national emergency, so that he will be able to tap into the Department of Defense money for the barrier. He made no mention of such a decision during his Oval Office speech.