Trump escalates migrant wall stand-off

President Trump

President Trump

US President Donald Trump has made his first TV address to the nation from the Oval Office, escalating a stand-off with Congress that has led to an 18-day partial government shutdown.

Mr Trump insisted on funding for his long-promised border wall with Mexico.

However, he did not declare an emergency that would enable him to bypass the lower house of Congress now controlled by the opposition Democrats.

Democratic leaders accused him of holding the American people hostage.

The Republican president wants $5.7bn (拢4.5bn) to build a steel barrier, which would deliver on his signature campaign pledge.

But Democrats – who recently took control of the House of Representatives – are adamantly opposed to giving him the funds.

The ongoing closure of a quarter of federal agencies is the second-longest in history, leaving hundreds of thousands of government workers unpaid.

In an eight-minute live address on Tuesday night, he blamed the Democrats for the government shutdown.

The situation at the border was, he said, a “humanitarian crisis, a crisis of the heart and a crisis of the soul”.

Mexico, he said, would pay for the wall through a revamp of the North American Free Trade Agreement, which is yet to be ratified. Economists have disputed this. Mexico has never agreed to pay for the wall.

The president also said that 90% of heroin sold in the US comes from Mexico, though US government figures make clear all but a small percentage is smuggled through legal points of entry.

Mr Trump correctly pointed out that Democrats including Mr Schumer had voted for a physical barrier to cover 700 miles (1,120km) in 2006.

Mr Trump also cited cases of American citizens “savagely murdered in cold blood” by undocumented immigrants.

On Thursday, he is due to visit the actual border. BBC

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