President Donald Trump stood by his signature campaign pledge of building a wall along the US border with Mexico, telling conservative activists Friday he’ll get it built despite Democratic opposition in Congress.
“We are calling on Congress to build a great border wall to stop dangerous drugs and criminals from pouring into our country,” Trump told the Conservative Political Action Conference in Maryland, just outside Washington. “And now they’re willing to give us the wall, but they don’t want to give us any of the laws to keep these people out. So we’re going to get the wall.”
Trump’s speech to the conservative confab included an extended riff about immigration, lamenting a system he claimed was woefully broken and declaring Democrats were standing in the way of preserving the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which Trump himself decided to terminate, despite the fact his party controls both chambers of Congress and the White House and he is responsible for the program’s demise.
His comments come also after a bipartisan DACA-border security deal failed in Senate earlier this month due in large part to his administration’s intense campaign against it, and after he rejected multiple offers from Democrats and some Republicans to preserve DACA in exchange for some border security.
The deal that was co-sponsored by eight Senate Republicans would have paired a pathway to citizenship for nearly 2 million undocumented immigrants who came to the US as children with $25 billion in border security and some other measures failed to get the 60 votes necessary to advance after furious White House opposition. Congress has been on recess since that vote.
“By the way, the Senate Democrats, and the House Democrats, have totally abandoned DACA,” Trump said. “They don’t even talk to me about it. The have totally abandoned it.”
He added: “We get the reputation, like DACA is not Republican. We let me tell you, it is Republican, because we want to do something about DACA and get it solved after all these years. The Democrats are being totally unresponsive. They don’t want to do anything about DACA. I am telling you, and it is very possible that DACA won’t happen, and it is not because of the Republicans. It is because of the Democrats, and, frankly, you better elect more Republicans or it will never happen.”
Democratic leaders in Congress have repeatedly promised to work on immigration even after the bipartisan deal failed and have met consistently with leaders of the pro-immigration movement and DACA recipients.
Trump also launched into the “snake” fable that formed a major portion of his campaign stump speech and warned against accepting immigrants he characterized as violent criminals.
Trump has long promised the building of his border wall, but so far has failed to convince Congress to give him any money or authority to do it.
Congress did allow the administration some leeway to build prototypes of possible new forms of fencing, wall and barriers for the border, which were built and tested in San Diego, but those have thus far not been tapped for any new projects.
During immigration negotiations, which protected young undocumented immigrants who came to the US as children, money for the wall was often discussed as a possible trade.
But Trump rejected repeated proposals from Democrats and some Republicans that would have given him $1.6 billion to $25 billion to build his wall, rejecting any deal that didn’t include any hardline cuts to legal immigration, as well.