President Trump threatened to shut down the government over Congress’s failure to allocate funding for his border-wall proposal during a private meeting Monday, according to multiple reports.
The president reportedly expressed frustration to congressional Republicans and White House officials in the meeting, telling them that he will not hesitate to shut down the government at the end fiscal year in September if he does not get the entire $25 billion needed for the wall. The Senate has offered just $1.6 billion so far.
Trump later argued that border security is part of his solution to family separations at the southern border, an issue that has consumed the news this week as the administration’s “zero tolerance” policy continues to spark controversy.
“I don’t want children taken away from parents,” Trump told a crowd at the National Federation of Independent Businesses anniversary celebration on Tuesday. “We want a country with heart.”
“As a result of Democrat-supported loopholes in our federal laws, most illegal immigrant families and minors from Central America who arrive unlawfully at the border cannot be detained together, removed together, only released,” Trump continued. “Those are the only two options: totally open borders or criminal prosecution.”
The president called on Congress to provide a “third option” to prevent families from being split up while the adults are prosecuted. He also rejected calls by both Republicans and Democrats to deal with immigration and the backlog of illegal-entry cases by simply hiring more judges, calling instead for border security, which would encourage immigrants to come in through legal ports of entry.
“Ultimately, we have to have a real border, not judges,” Trump said. “When we release the people they never come back to the judge anyway.”
Asylum seekers entering legally through ports of entry are not prosecuted. However, their claims may still be rejected, especially after Attorney General Jeff Sessions ruled recently that most victims of gang violence and domestic abuse were not entitled to asylum.
“An alien may suffer threats and violence in a foreign country for any number of reasons relating to her social, economic, family or other personal circumstances,” Sessions said earlier this month. “Yet the asylum statute does not provide redress for all misfortune.”
The U.S. last year surpassed Germany as the world leader in asylum applications received, taking the top spot for the first time since 2012, according to a U.N. Refugee Agency report released Tuesday.