U.S. President Donald Trump said Tuesday that a government shutdown later this year would be "a very small price to pay" to force Congress to approve tougher immigration controls.
"I don’t care what the political ramifications are, our immigration laws and border security have been a complete and total disaster for decades, and there is no way that the Democrats will allow it to be fixed without a Government Shutdown," Trump said on Twitter.
"Border Security is National Security, and National Security is the long-term viability of our Country," he said, adding that a shutdown would lead to a "safe and prosperous America!"
It was the third consecutive day that Trump has pressed Congress to approve the controversial construction of a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border to thwart illegal immigration. However, twice in June, a splintered majority Republican bloc in the House of Representatives, along with solid Democratic opposition, rejected immigration reforms that Trump supported, including $25 billion for construction of the wall.
Republican leaders in Congress have said they want to push off another immigration debate until after the nationwide November 6 congressional elections. But they are faced with approving new funding authorization for the government at the end of September when the current spending measure expires, which leaves open the possibility, if not likelihood, of a shutdown.
Republican leaders have said they do not want to force their colleagues to make politically tough votes on immigration policies about five weeks ahead of the voting, but Trump in his latest tweets dismissed political concerns.
On Monday, Trump told a White House news conference, "Strong nations must have strong borders."
Trump called the United States "the laughingstock of the world, with the worst immigration laws anywhere in the world."
But when asked whether he wants approval of full $25 billion funding for the wall, as well as other tougher immigration changes he has demanded in order to avert a shutdown, he replied, "I always leave room for negotiation."
In addition to the wall, Trump has called for ending a visa lottery allowing migrants from overseas to move to the United States. Instead, he wants a "merit" system in which job skills and education of the migrants play an important role in whether they are allowed into the country.
"We have laws that don't work," Trump said. "We have to end these horrible 'catch and release' principles where you catch somebody, you take their name and you release them. You don't even know who they are. The whole thing is ridiculous."
The Senate Judiciary Committee is holding a hearing Thursday on the Trump administration's "zero tolerance" policy for families who illegally crossed into the United States from Mexico. Those who did were automatically detained and children were detained separately from their parents.
Trump signed an executive order rescinding the family separations after a nationwide outcry, including from many fellow Republicans. A federal judge in San Diego gave officials two deadlines to reunite children, and last week credited the government for reunifying more than 1,800 children while also saying it is at fault for deporting the parents of more than 400 kids without reuniting those families.
Trump used a Twitter post Monday night to celebrate the reunifications that have taken place while making no mention of the families that remain separated.
U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw has ordered both the government and the American Civil Liberties Union, which represents the parents, to give written updates each Thursday on the families that are still separated.
The Senate Judiciary Committee is also asking the inspectors general of the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Health and Human Services to investigate allegations of physical and sexual abuse of immigrants by guards and other staff members at detention facilities.
The top Republican on the committee, Sen. Charles Grassley, and the top Democrat, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, issued a joint letter saying there should be a thorough probe of the procedures for hiring, training and vetting guards and other workers.
Many of the allegations detailed in media reports in recent weeks date back to 2014 and include facilities in Pennsylvania, Arizona and Virginia.
"These allegations of abuse are extremely disturbing and must be addressed," Grassley and Feinstein wrote. "This is not a partisan issue as reporting suggests many have been occurring for years. Immigrant families and children kept in federal custody deserve to be treated with basic human dignity and respect and should never be subjected to these forms of abuse."