President Trump on Friday threatened to close the southern border if Democrats do not relent in the standoff over border wall funding, which has resulted in a partial government shutdown that has lasted a week.
“We will be forced to close the Southern Border entirely if the Obstructionist Democrats do not give us the money to finish the Wall & also change the ridiculous immigration laws that our Country is saddled with,” the president tweeted.
Mr. Trump previously threatened to close the southern border to stop an approaching migrant caravan. The administration did temporarily close a border crossing that was being overwhelmed by the caravan.
In a series of tweets about the border showdown with Democrats, the president said he could justify closing the southern border as a response to the lopsided trade he said the U.S. suffers under the North American Free Trade Agreement.
Mr. Trump also expressed disbelief that the U.S. in his view has struggled for so long with porous borders and weak laws that foster rampant illegal immigration.
“Hard to believe there was a Congress & President who would approve!” he said.
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The standoff over Mr. Trump’s demand for roughly $5 billion for border security including a wall or barrier led to the partial government shutdown, now in its seventh day.
The shutdown affects 25 percent of the federal government, including the Interior, Justice and Homeland Security departments.
Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney said Friday that the administration proposed an unspecified amount of less than $5 billion for the border wall in its most recent offer to Democratic leaders last week, but never received a counteroffer. Mr. Mulvaney said he and Vice President Mike Pence gave Senate Democratic Leader Charles E. Schumer “a number below five [$5 billion]” during their last face-to-face negotiation.
“I’m not going to tell you what it is,” he said of the amount proposed.
“We’re here, and they know where to find us,” Mr. Mulvaney told reporters. “We made an offer last Saturday night [Dec. 22]. They told us they’d get back to us by the end of the week. They got back to us last night and said ‘We’re leaving.’”
Democratic leaders insist that they support border security but oppose Mr. Trump’s wall, saying it is a costly and ineffective solution to illegal immigration. They have backed various alternatives, such as drones and sensors and other high-tech solutions.
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Mr. Trump said closing the border also could be justified as a response to NAFTA.
The Trump administration negotiated a rewrite of the three-way deal with Canada and Mexico. The new trade pact, known as the U.S. Mexico Canada Agreement, is awaiting approval by Congress.
“The United States loses soooo much money on Trade with Mexico under NAFTA, over 75 Billion Dollars a year (not including Drug Money which would be many times that amount), that I would consider closing the Southern Border a “profit making operation,’” he tweeted.
“We build a Wall or … close the Southern Border. Bring our car industry back into the United States where it belongs. Go back to pre-NAFTA, before so many of our companies and jobs were so foolishly sent to Mexico. Either we build (finish) the Wall or we close the Border,” Mr. Trump said.
• Dave Boyer contributed to this story.