At a surprise press briefing Thursday afternoon at the White House, U.S. President Donald Trump made a big push for his proposal to build a wall on the southern border with Mexico, just hours after Democrat Nancy Pelosi was sworn in as speaker of the House of Representatives.
After congratulating Pelosi, Trump moved quickly to the issue of border security. He said without walls, there is no border security, and insisted he is representing the will of the American people on this issue.
"I have never had so much support as I have in the last week over my stance for border security, for border control, and for frankly, the wall or the barrier," he said.
According to a Quinnipiac University national poll, 54 percent of American voters oppose building a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border, saying a wall is not necessary to improve border security. Forty-three percent of voters support a wall.
'Out of control'
Standing behind Trump at the press briefing were eight people he introduced as "ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) and Border Patrol" agents who have been "extremely supportive of what we're doing on the border."
The agents appeared to have been brought in to help advocate for Trump's demand for wall funding, as the partial government shutdown over border security now enters its 13th day.
Brandon Judd, president of the National Border Council who spoke after the president, said illegal immigration and drug smuggling was "out of control" in Naco, Arizona, where he worked as a border patrol agent but that it "dropped exponentially" once the wall was built.
Judd added that border security has "nothing to do" with a political party.
"If I come to your home, do you want me to knock on the front door? Or do you want me to climb through that window?" he asked.
Union official addresses press
Hector Garza, vice president-at-large of the National Border Patrol Council and an agent at the Texas border, added that "murderers and rapists" are coming in this country "on a daily basis" and that a wall "will be able to stop that."
The National Border Council is a labor union that represents agents and support staff of the U.S. Border Patrol.
This was Trump's first-ever appearance in the James S. Brady briefing room since taking office in 2017. The briefing appeared hastily arranged and came as a surprise to the White House Press Corps, who were only given a five-minute notice.
The president said the meeting with Border Patrol and ICE agents had been planned "a long time ago" but "happened at an opportune time." He added that he invited them to "go out and see the press," to tell them about the "importance of the wall."
The briefing happened in less than 10 minutes, after which Trump and White House Spokesperson Sarah Sanders left without taking reporters' questions.
The president is scheduled to meet again with lawmakers on Jan. 4 at the White House, after a Jan. 2 meeting failed to reach an agreement to end the partial government shutdown that has been in place since Dec. 22.
Trump continues to demand $5.6 billion in wall funding, and has rejected a back-channel compromise offered by Vice President Mike Pence for half the amount.
Democrats, now in control of the House of Representatives, prepared to pass legislation to fund government agencies through September, with a separate bill to fund the Department of Homeland Security, which manages border security, through February. The stopgap measure is intended to give lawmakers and the White House 30 days to negotiate.
Even if the bill passes in the Republican-controlled Senate, it could still face a Trump veto.
Currently over 800,000 federal employees are furloughed or working without pay due to the shutdown.