Trump ramps up border wall row

President Donald Trump at a US-Mexico border wall prototype while on a tour near the Otay Mesa Port of Entry in San Diego, California, on March 13, 2018
President Donald Trump at a US-Mexico border wall prototype while on a tour near the Otay Mesa Port of Entry in San Diego, California, on March 13, 2018
Image: Reuters

US President Donald Trump was set to deliver a primetime address to the nation on immigration as he pushed for a showdown in his battle for a controversial US-Mexico border wall.

Trump’s plans for a national address, in the early hours of Wednesday SA time, and a trip to the border on Thursday raise the stakes in the row with congressional Democrats refusing to fund his wall project.

The stalemate has led to a partial government shutdown now in its third week.

Democratic leaders responded to Trump’s planned speech by calling for equal airtime to rebut the president’s “malice and misinformation”, though it is not yet clear how major networks will respond.

The events – giving Trump the national stage against two very different backdrops – give him a chance to try to seize the narrative.

They also follow his threats to bypass Congress by invoking emergency powers to order wall construction.

Those powers would in theory allow Trump to seek alternative funding for the wall and possibly free him to reopen parts of the federal government shut down as part of his row with Congress.

However, opponents would almost certainly accuse him of presidential overreach and respond with court challenges.

So far, the White House has given no heads up regarding the details of Trump’s message.

Trump simply tweeted his address from the Oval Office will cover “the humanitarian and national security crisis on our southern border”.

The exact destination of Thursday’s trip was not made public.

“President Trump keeps rejecting the bipartisan Housepassed bills, which have already received strong bipartisan support in the Senate, to reopen the government,” a joint statement by House speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer said.

“Now that the television networks have decided to air the president’s address, which if his past statements are any indication, will be full of malice and misinformation, Democrats must immediately be given equal airtime,” they added.

Trump has made building a wall the central theme of his nationalist domestic policies.

He paints the Mexico border as an open gate for criminals, including rapists, terrorists, people with diseases and phony asylum seekers.

Democrats, who won control of the House of Representatives in midterm legislative elections, say Trump’ s wall call was a political stunt not worth taxpayer money.

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