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News > U.S.

Trump Calls Last-minute Meeting With Lawmakers Over Border Wall

  •  U.S. Custom and order Protection (CBP) agents points his weapon at migrants as they prepare to cross the border fence. Jan 1, 2019

    U.S. Custom and order Protection (CBP) agents points his weapon at migrants as they prepare to cross the border fence. Jan 1, 2019 | Photo: Reuters

Published 2 January 2019

Trump, who shut down the government 12 days ago because he didn't get border wall funding, wants to 'brief' Congressional leaders on border security. 

President Donald Trump's adminstration will present a “border security briefing” Wednesday afternoon to Democratic and Republican leaders of both houses of Congress on the the last day of the 115th Congressional session that Trump’s Republican party still controls.

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The meeting will take place in the White House Situation Room, generally reserved for military planning.

The Democrats will take control of the House of Representatives for the 2019-2020 Congress Thursday, and have scheduled immediate legislative votes that could end Trump’s partial government shutdown that the president put in place 12 days ago when Democratic and Republican senators refused to include his US$5 billion budget request to fortify a border wall between the United States and Mexico.

The ‘border wall’ was a key Trump campaign promise in 2016 which he insisted would be paid for by Mexico.

Shutdown Fallout

Roughly a quarter of the federal government and 800,000 federal employees have been affected by the shutdown, including immigration courts that, as of November 2018, were already backlogged with 1,098,468 cases, according to the Syracuse University Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC).

The federal shutdown has forced judges to indefinitely postpone hearings that were scheduled months, sometimes years, in advance. Mexican nationals have the leading number of backlogged cases with 21,625. El Salvador follows with 19,382. Guatemala and Honduras are third and fourth with a over 19,500 combined cases.

President Trump’s border wall is a response to what he calls ‘illegal’ border crossing by Central Americans, the vast majority of whom are trying to gain asylum in the U.S. to escape death threats, 70 percent poverty rates, and an overwhelming cycle of government corruption and impunity in their home countries.

Some of the postponed immigration cases are for final asylum decisions that are expensive for refugees says Kate Voigt, associate director of government affairs at the American Immigration Lawyers Association to CBS News.

"When you're getting ready for a court hearing of that magnitude, it can be so stressful in the lead up," Voigt said. "When you get all geared up for that, and spend all that money, and then you find out it's been postponed — it can have a real impact on people's mental health."

Minors of Migrant Exodus Turned Away by US Immigration Agency

All non-detained individuals, who make up the majority of the cases, who had hearings scheduled since Dec. 22 when the partial shutdown began have had their appointments indefinitely cancelled.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services that takes care of naturalization and citizenship and which tend to be higher-income individuals than those going through the closed down court system, has stayed in business during the government shutdown.

Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said Senate Republicans will not approve a spending measure Trump does not support.

The Democrats, likely be led by current House Democrat minority leader, Nancy Pelosi, includes a bill to fund the Department of Homeland Security at current levels through Feb. 8 and provides $1.3 billion for border fencing and $300 million for other border security items including technology and cameras.

Trump has called the full-scale wall crucial to blocking immigrants and combating drug trafficking, appealing to his conservative political base.

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