If the United States government shutdown continues into Saturday, it will become the longest in the country’s history.
United States President Donald Trump renewed a vow to declare a national emergency over funding for the construction of a wall on the U.S.-Mexican border and said Mexico was still going to pay for it -- a baseless claim without evidence.
The move would likely escalate a policy dispute with Democrats over his proposed U.S.-Mexico border wall into a court test of presidential power. If a state of national emergency is declared, the U.S. president could override Congressional powers and acquire funding for his wall -- a central promise of his 2016 election campaign.
Trump had pressured Congress to provide US$5.7 billion in U.S. taxpayer funding for the wall in a bill. Congressional refusal to pass the legislation resulted in a government shutdown by President Trump.
The U.S. president insisted Thursday that the wall will be paid for by revenue gained from a new trade deal pending in Congress, called the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) that would replace the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). He admitted that Mexico would not pay directly for the construction of his proposed wall along the border.
“During the campaign, I said Mexico would pay for it,” Trump told reporters outside the White House. “They are paying for it with the incredible deal we made, the USMCA.”
The USMCA was approved after lengthy negotiations over a replacement for the North American Free Trade Agreement, which Trump has long slammed as the “single worst deal ever approved.”
He had originally pledged that Mexico would pay, a measure he said is needed to stem the flow of illegal immigrants and drugs -- a reason suspended on belief alone as the Drug Enforcement Administration has stated that most illicit drugs enter the United States through legal ports of entry, for instance.
Once in Texas, Trump insisted again that, “When I say Mexico’s going to pay for the wall, that’s what I mean.”
“I didn’t mean, ‘Please write me a check.’ I mean very simply, they’re paying for it in the trade deal,” he added.
The Mexican government has refused to engage with the matter.
Former Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto said in 2017 in one of the first dialogs with Trump, “Let us leave this topic — let us put it aside and let us find a creative way of looking into this issue.”
Following Nieto’s request, Trump’s references to Mexico paying for the wall dropped significantly to fewer than 20 times in 23 months, the Washington Post, which has been monitoring Trump’s erroneous claims, reported.
The current Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (ALMO), who took office Dec. 1, 2018, said the wall matter was an internal political affair within the U.S. linked to the frequent election cycles.
“In the US they have, I say with all due respect as I do not want to get involved in their internal affairs, but they have a re-election system with very short periods,” ALMO said. "Then, when the new president arrives, almost upon entering the office, he is already thinking about reelection and his opponents are doing the same,” he added.
The standoff comes as thousands of people from Central America left their countries in what they have called the Central American Exodus heading to the United States fleeing drug violence and crime and seeking better lives and opportunities. Trump and his government have issued multiple threats and xenophobic rhetoric against the Exodus and even sent military troops.
He has been using the Exodus, which includes many women and children and families, to court to his supporters and advance the idea of the wall by calling the migrants criminals and drug dealers.