US President Donald Trump made a case for a wall on the border with Mexico in a televised address on Tuesday, saying that the situation is a “humanitarian crisis, a crisis of the heart and a crisis of the soul”.
The address came ahead of a rebuttal by top Democrats, Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer, who said the president “has appealed to fear, not facts”.
The speeches came on the 18th day of a partial government shutdown, centred on Trump’s demand for more than $5bn in wall funding, a request Democrats vehemently oppose.
“This is a choice between right and wrong; between justice and injustice,” Trump said in his first address from the Oval Office. Urging Democrats to return to the White House to meet for talks, Trump said it was “immoral” for “politicians to do nothing”.
In the Democratic rebuttal, Pelosi said Trump “must stop holding the American people hostage, must stop manufacturing a crisis and must re-open the government”.
Despite several attempts at talks, Trump, his fellow Republicans and Democrats have so far failed to find to a deal on the funding, and Tuesday’s speeches deepened the feeling that politicians are still far from finding a solution.
The partial shutdown, which began December 22, affects some 800,000 federal workers in nine departments and several agencies. Employees have either been furloughed or are required to work without pay.
The shutdown has also strained the immigration system, worsening backlogs in courts and complicating hiring for employers.