U.S. President Donald Trump threatened Sunday to shut down the government if Congress does not fund construction of a wall along the U.S.-Mexican border to thwart illegal immigration.
The U.S. leader claimed opposition Democrats need to give him "the votes for Border Security, which includes the Wall!" and other tougher national immigration policy changes. But it was a splintered Republican majority bloc of lawmakers, along with unified Democratic opposition, that twice in recent weeks rejected immigration changes Trump supported.
Trump, in a Twitter comment, called for the U.S. to "finally go to system of Immigration based on MERIT! We need great people coming into our Country!
Trump's call for a wall, a favorite vow from his 2016 presidential campaign, would likely cost more than $20 billion, but Congress so far has allocated only $1.5 billion for extra border security. Democrats have often assailed the wall proposal, along with some Republicans. Trump, meanwhile. has long claimed Mexico would pay for it, but Mexican leaders have adamantly said they would not, leaving the U.S. president to plead with Congress to fund it.
Trump's threatened government shutdown would come as spending authorization runs out again at the end of the current fiscal year at the end of September, about five weeks before nationwide congressional elections on November 6. U.S. lawmakers usually, but not always, reach a spending accord shortly before funding runs out or after a short funding hiatus, as occurred last year.
A number of Democratic lawmakers used their own Twitter posts to criticize Trump's threat to close the government.
"Donald Trump is the ONLY person calling for a government shutdown," said Rep. Karen Bass. "He'd rather spend billions on a campaign promise than keep services available for veterans, small businesses, and children."
"Are we gonna spend September trying to figure out which party is shutting the government down even though they run all branches of government, or are we going to remember that the President literally announced that he wants to do it?" posted Sen. Brian Schatz.
"Mr. President, we can well understand your desire to fight over your wall," said Rep. Adam Schiff. "Your tax cut is a flop, the economy you only inherited from Obama, and you have no meaningful legislative achievements to show for your presidency. Stop taking it out on kids and families."
As he continued to lobby for a border wall, Trump issued a new warning to migrants looking to illegally cross the Mexican border into the United States, saying they would face "consequences" even if they are accompanied by children.
He said that many of the border crossers "are just using children for their own sinister purposes."
"Congress must act on fixing the DUMBEST & WORST immigration laws anywhere in the world!" Trump said. After the recent defeat of immigration legislation, there is no current active move to change U.S. immigration policies and one of the two chambers of Congress, the House of Representatives, just left Washington for a five-week summer recess.
Trump contended that "Democrats, who want Open Borders and care little about Crime, are incompetent, but they have the Fake News Media almost totally on their side!"
Trump's latest attacks against U.S. immigrants entering the U.S. illegally — most of them from Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras — comes as his administration continues to deal with the fallout of his "zero tolerance" policy of weeks ago in which more than 2,500 children were separated from their parents as they crossed into the United States.
A month ago, Trump ended the breakup of families. Under a court order, the U.S. government reunited by last Thursday more than 1,800 children with their parents, other family members already in the U.S. or sponsor households.
But more than 700 more are awaiting reunification or can't, for one reason or another, be reunified. A total of 431 parents were deported without their children or left of their own accord. Nearly 100 children have parents who can't be located.
Dana Sabraw, a U.S. judge in San Diego, California, who is overseeing the reunification of families, said the government deserves "great credit" for the reunification of the 1,800 children with their parents or other family members. But he also said "the government is at fault for losing several hundred parents in the process and that's where we go next."