Washington, US President Donald Trump during an oval office address said law enforcement officials are requesting $56.7 billion to erect a physical barrier on the southern border.
“Finally, as an overall approach to border security, law enforcement professionals have requested $5.7 billion for a physical barrier,” Trump said Tuesday night, adding that the wall would very quickly pay for itself.
The message marked the first time Trump addressed the country from behind the desk in the White House Oval Office, which came amid a partial government shutdown – which is now 18 days old – over border security disputes with Democrats, CNBC reported.
Ahead of the speech, several US media outlets reported that Trump would not declare a national emergency in order to build the wall as he threatened to do last week.
The president kicked-off the speech at 9:01 p.m. EST on Tuesday (2:01 a.m. GMT on Wednesday) and ended it about 10 minutes later. Trump started his speech with a sober warning about the disaster unfolding at the border between the United States and Mexico.
“My fellow Americans, tonight I am speaking to you because there is a growing humanitarian and security crisis in our southern border,” Trump said Tuesday night.
Earlier in his speech, before asking for the funding, Trump said all US citizens are hurt by uncontrolled illegal immigration. He added that over the years thousands of citizens in the United States have been killed by illegal immigrants and thousands more may die if no action is taken.
Trump made a concession to the opposition during the speech, saying that – at the request of Democrats – the barrier will be made of steel, not concrete. The president also extended an invitation to lawmakers to settle the issue during talks on Wednesday.
“I have invited Congressional leadership for a meeting tomorrow,” Trump said, adding that he plans to discuss the construction of the physical barrier on the US southern border and the issue of immigration. “I hope that we can rise above partisan politics.”
Trump also said that Democrats in the past repeatedly supported a physical barrier.”They changed their mind only after I was elected President,” Trump said.
Minutes after Trump’s brief statement, the Democratic leaders responded with their own televised address. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer called on Trump to end the shutdown and deal with the issue of a border wall separately.
“Stop manufacturing a crisis and reopen the government,” Schumer said on Tuesday night. “Mr. President, reopen the government and we can work to end our differences over border security but end this shutdown now.”
Vice President Mike Pence earlier in the day said Trump is considering declaring a national emergency to bypass Congress and use military funds to build a wall on the US-Mexico border. On Monday, the White House announced that the president would visit the border on Thursday.
On December 22, the government shut down after Democrats refused to include the amount of border funding Trump asked for in the annual budget.
Currently there is nearly 600 miles worth of barrier, primarily consisting of 16-foot high fencing, along the 1,900-mile US-Mexico border. Trump wants to erect a physical barrier over 30 feet tall on more than 200 miles of the border that would include new and replacement barriers.